The Hur Herald has received dozens and dozens of e-mails that debunk the science around COVID-19, some self-initiated, but mostly forwarding political web sites

Jim Barach: The cold, hard facts about COVID-19 (Opinion)

Imagine being diagnosed with appendicitis and getting ready to go to the hospital for emergency surgery, only to be told to cancel the operation as the appendix is just a useless organ that doesn’t need to be taken out. Imagine finding out you have pneumonia but are told pneumonia doesn’t really exist, it’s really only a bad cold, so just let it take its course and you will be fine.

Sounds unlikely, right? But it is happening daily. People are receiving bogus information about the seriousness of COVID-19 and how to treat it (or not) from sources that have little or no credibility in the medical field.

As a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, I have recently been inundated with emails and have read countless posts on social media from people who are pleading for legislation against employer and government mandates for masks and COVID-19 vaccinations.

It is alarming, the amount of false information that is being passed on about this deadly disease by those with little medical knowledge but an intense political agenda.

The only way we will be successful in fighting this virus is by sticking to the facts, which I would like to present to show that COVID-19 is indeed real and extremely dangerous.

First, the belief that the pandemic is nothing but an aggressive form of the flu is completely false. The Mayo Clinic says the coronavirus is from a much newer and different virus that has nothing to do with the ones that cause influenza. Further, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center puts the death rate from those contracting the virus at 1.7%, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the typical yearly mortality rate from the flu is just under 0.1%.

What that means is that the coronavirus is 17 times as deadly as the flu. If you have ever had the flu, as most of us have, it is probably a safe bet you would not want to contract and have to battle a virus 17 times as strong, even if you were to survive it. Stories you might like

Another myth says the vaccine, masks and social distancing don’t work, but trained professionals with the Mayo Clinic say that masks, social distancing and hand washing slow the spread of the virus. Furthermore, a study of government data by The Associated Press shows nearly all the people dying from COVID-19 since May were those who did not receive vaccinations.

Still, ridiculous and unfounded rumors perpetuated by unqualified sources hold that vaccines contain microchips, cause people to become magnetic, or alter patients’ DNA.

These false claims persist, despite the preponderance of scientific and medical evidence that indicate these outcomes are impossible. These false claims are giving rise to the real threat from the disease that is resulting in innocent people, many of them children from families denying the facts, being hospitalized and dying.

The real threat from the disease is the skyrocketing number of people who are being hospitalized. The CDC says that, in the past 10 years, 150,000 to 800,000 Americans were hospitalized by the flu. Compare that with the 1-year period between August 2020 to August of this year when there have been 2.6 million hospital admissions from COVID-19. That is more than triple the number of admissions in the worst recent flu year.

The crisis is compounded by the fact that we have about 1 million hospital beds in this country, according to the American Hospital Association. Having a surge of that many patients crowds out those with other health issues. It also places other patients who might be compromised from their health condition in jeopardy of contracting COVID-19, along with all the doctors, nurses and other health professionals. When they get sick, who will be there to take care of them, as well as all their patients?

We desperately need to stick to hard facts and ignore the rumors and false claims being posted on social media and politically based websites. The only way we are going to beat this pandemic is to use the science we are given and to listen to the health care professionals who are putting their lives at risk to help the rest of us.

We don’t rely on social media to find a cure for appendicitis and pneumonia, nor should we in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic that is taking hundreds of thousands of lives in this country.

Jim Barach, D-Kanawha, represents the 36th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.