News sources contradict each other on pandemic’s severity, affects opinions
It’s a typical day, and junior Micheal Bagley opens his computer after eating dinner. He creates two tabs on his computer—he pulls up Fox News on one and CNN on the other. Bagley knows that the two sources tend to differ in their political stances; that is why he chose them. He knows the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Since January—when COVID-19 first became a global concern—news sources publicized their contrasting views on the virus’ severity. Scientists warned of as many as half a million deaths and trillions of dollars in economic damage. Simultaneously, a Fox News host announced that it was “the safest time to fly;” New York’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed that it posed “very little threat;” and Rush Limbaugh incorrectly claimed that “this is the 19th coronavirus—they’re not uncommon.”
As the number of confirmed worldwide cases passed 4 million on May 11, views of the virus have continued to diverge. In early April, nine Republican state governors refused to implement stay-at-home orders despite pressure from Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. And according to a national poll taken by the Knight Foundation from March 17-29, 40 percent of Americans believed that COVID-19 was less or equally as deadly as the flu. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 12,000 to 61,000 people die annually from the flu, while the number of confirmed deaths from COVID-19 increased to 278, 892 on May 11, according to the World Health Organization.
Bagley thinks that such conflicting opinions are largely a result of the partisanship of the news. Bagley attempts to find the objective facts by scanning both the conservative Fox News and liberal CNN, then reading the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He looks for common threads between articles and often checks that their sources are reliable.
“I kind of go to the extremes and then work [my] way in because neither [side] is [normally] telling the whole truth,” Bagley said. “Both are trying to paint the other in the worst light possible, which is one of the biggest problems. The people who don’t read both sides end up with this extreme version [of the news] that may be partially true but hiding some of the truth.”
As Bagley noted, CNN has frequently blamed President Trump for a lack of initial action against the virus, while Fox News has accused Democrats of “weaponizing an infectious disease” against the president.
“It is really unfortunate,” Bagley said. “Especially in these uncertain times, you would hope this would bring bipartisanship to our government, but it just really hasn’t.”
Bagley advocates for only those at risk to social distance while freshman Ella Sjrogen believes that restrictions should not be as lax.
“The coronavirus is a lot more serious than people think,” Sjogren said. “Many [people] are taking the [shelter-in-place] too lightly, putting more people at risk with each interaction [that] they have with an outside person. Until the number of new cases goes down, I don’t think it’s responsible [for] anyone to hangout or not social distance.”
State governors are all faced with the same dilemma—to proceed with caution or to lift restrictions. The majority of states have begun opening their economies in some way. On April 27, Governor Greg Abbott announced that the stay-at-home order would expire on April 30, limiting most malls, retail stores and restaurants around the state to 25 percent capacity.
“It’s a serious threat, and the government is being careless by trying to open the country as soon as they are,” senior Sofia Weinstein said. “Yes, the strength of the economy is important, but it puts a lot of people’s lives at risk. [The virus] doesn’t only endanger immunocompromised and old people—it has proven to be dangerous to everyone.”
Freshman Blake Scheinberg believes that the economy is a more important concern while making decisions regarding the virus. National GDP has declined 4.8 percent since February, and since mid-March, 30 million Americans have filed initial unemployment claims.
“The hole [that] this will put our county in will lead to another depression, creating more deaths than the virus [would],” Scheinberg said.
Scheinberg has a parent in the medical field and believes that the government should slowly lift restrictions to prevent overcrowding in the hospitals. Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia and other states have seen protests to re-open the economy, many expressing their views that the virus is being exaggerated.
“Freedom is definitely something people feel [is] being threatened right now,” sophomore Natalie Parker said. “While I am a constitutionalist, the constitution had no idea about a global pandemic, and yes, it is our freedom, but I do not believe we should be protesting. Right now, we have to take one for the country; we have to stay indoors; it’s our duty at this point. I don’t believe that the protestors should be out there risking their lives and the lives of others. It’s disrespectful.”
While Parker normally watches One American Nation with her family, she is currently refraining from watching the news because she does not trust the sources and dislikes their negativity.
False information has circulated throughout the world. A man named Gregory Rigano claimed to be a Stanford University Medical School advisor and appeared on Fox News, confirming hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 cure. Stanford immediately revealed that Rigano has no affiliation with their university and that no such tests have been conducted. The drug’s efficacy has not been scientifically proven, and the Food and Drug Administration has recently advised against using the drug because of potentially life threatening side effects.
“There are people who if they hear something they will believe it,” Bagley said. “It’s a little disappointing in Americans and humanity as a whole, but there gets to a point where it’s your life—you have to take some sort of responsibility for it.”