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COVID-19 (mis)information highway: Have a sick friend? What not to do

I spent two weeks this month caring for a seriously ill friend. My second biggest problem? People who scan the internet for all the bad -- or irrelevant -- advice they can offer. Don't be like them.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor on

Remember the dawn of the internet age? The promise of "all the world's information" at your fingertips? I do, barely.

Because that promise has turned into something very different, as I learned while nursing my friend. It seemed like every every bit of Covid-19 rumor, theory, conspiracy, and fantasy the internet could regurgitate ended up in an email or text that clamored for my attention.

No worries though. As a tech analyst, I've dealt with worse for decades.

What was hard was that all this "help" didn't help. What I really needed was something no one wanted to do: physical presence to perform physical, not virtual, tasks.

I don't blame friends for not wanting to become infected with a potentially life-threatening disease, courtesy of my mild case -- thanks for asking -- and my very sick friend. But, in the moment, stressed out -- all respect to nurses for the work they do -- I wanted real physical help.

Not misinformation. Or informed musings about the virus.

The Storage Bits take

When, not if, you have a friend in need of support during the pandemic, try to remember that they are already stressed. They may not know what they need, so offer physical actions.

Make a healthy homemade soup. Drop off some electrolyte solution. Or just about anything that says that despite the risks, you're offering something concrete.

If you must offer advice, be a filter, not an amplifier. Don't forward rumors or random theories. Stick with reputable sources, the CDC, or science reporting by physicians and/or public health experts.

Finally, caretakers are likely to be frazzled. So information you forward should include actionable recommendations that a home caregiver can perform. The opinion pieces will still be there once the crisis recedes. 

Bottom line: be a friend in deed. Don't add to a caregiver's burden just to make yourself feel like you're helping.

Comments welcome.

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