COVID-19 conspiracy theories hindering Rogue Valley recovery efforts

MEDFORD, Ore. – Comment after comment, post after post, conspiracy theories aren’t hard to find on social media.¬†Misinformation online about COVID-19 has been spreading just as fast as the virus itself. With the current health care crisis in our valley, frontline workers are urging residents to take the disease seriously.

The misinformation ranges in everything from the vaccine doesn’t work to this whole pandemic is a hoax. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is very real with a global health care crisis on our hands overwhelmed people on the front lines of this pandemic have had enough.

“We need more people to become more vaccinated or unfortunately become ill. That is how we’ll reach herd immunity. There’s an easy way and a painful way. We may be going down the painful route,” said Dr. Scott Nelson.

Now frontline health care workers are speaking out at city and county meetings, hoping local leaders will help inspire others to wear a mask and get vaccinated.

But part of the battle is stopping the spread of misinformation about COVID-19, especially online. Both Jackson and Josephine County Public Health have been trying to get in front of false conspiracy theories.

“Public health is catching up to social media. So there is an effort in Oregon and in the country to modernize public health,” said Dr. Leona O’Keefe, Deputy Medical Officer for Josephine Co. Public Health.

She told NBC5 News it all comes down to trust. From trusting your doctor to trusting your county leaders. Right now, she worries there’s not much of it.

“As a result of that erosion of trust for many years, now here we are in a pandemic where trust is essential, but it’s not there,” said Dr. O’Keefe.

Jackson County Public Health said it’s seeing its fair share of conspiracies. But it doesn’t make the reality of the situation any less real.

“If we don’t lay it out clearly to the public, we’re doing them a tremendous disservice. For people to minimize what’s happening, the hospitals are in crisis mode honestly,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Medical Director for Jackson Co. Public Health.

Asante Surgeon Scott Nelson said in a Grants Pass City Council meeting, everyone in the community needs to change their attitude as a whole to get through this.

“I know that we all feel like we have our rights and our freedoms, we certainly do. I love this country and I’m grateful for those things. But this really is a time for a community to come together. And to think about not just ourselves, but about everyone else. And how we can help our community be safe,” said Dr. Nelson.

With the COVID-19 situation in Jackson and Josephine Counties only getting worse this month this pandemic isn’t going to go away until people start making changes.

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