Covid-19 and Misinformation

Librarians don’t just check out books (and in fact, librarians seldom check out books—that is left to the paraprofessional staff), they also carefully monitor the greater information landscape, looking at where information comes from and whether it is fact or fiction. With the popularity of social media, so much of what we “hear” is the same thing that we might have heard over the back fence, from a neighbor, for example, only that it is amplified in ways that years ago would have been unimaginable. Or it is like playing the telephone game designed to be illustrative of how a statement over time can be transformed into something completely untrue. It is easy then, for misinformation, to quickly catch on and dupe the most discerning of us. Sorting through vast amounts of information can be confusing and challenging, even for librarians.

Since the Charles Town Library has recently reinstated our mask requirement for entrance into the library (given that the county is at a high-risk for Covid-19 infections with its low vaccination rate), we have heard some of our patrons, resisting our mask requirement, provide misinformation about masks. “If I wear a mask it will make me sick, because I am breathing in carbon dioxide at high levels.”

This misinformation about the dangers of masks comes from Facebook. It can be traced to someone posing as an official from OSHA. There are innumerable reliable sites that provide the scientific rationale for why we wear masks without endangering our own health.

The truth: Most of the masks we wear are cloth which fit snuggly over our nose and mouth, but not so tight that carbon dioxide cannot escape through and around the sides when we exhale. Carbon dioxide droplets are small enough to pass through a mask, but Covid-19 droplets are bigger, and are stymied by the mask, thus protecting others from the corona virus.

For the greater good, we wear masks, to protect others as well as ourselves.

Remember that librarians are trained to help you navigate the information landscape. If you hear something that seems credible, but just aren’t sure, you can ask us to find the facts for you and to provide authoritative documentation.

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