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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information Session

On February 10, 2020, the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health (MEZCOPH) hosted an Information Session with a panel of public health professionals to address questions about the emerging outbreak of novel coronavirus, officially named “COVID-19” by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Session aimed to foster a better understanding of the outbreak by sharing fact-based information about risk, prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and evidence-based preventive strategies. Over 300 people joined the session either in person or online.

Panelists participating in the Session included scientists, public health professionals, and healthcare providers from MEZCOPH’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Department of Community, Environment and Policy as well as University of Arizona Campus Health, Pima County Health Department, and Banner Health-Tucson.

MEZCOPH organized the Session to inform, educate, and empower people to spread facts not fears, to practice compassion, and to follow Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for hand and respiratory hygiene. People are encouraged to get a flu shot if they have not received one yet.

Over 100 people participated in the online survey on risk perception, knowledge, and information sources regarding COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus). Just over 50% of the survey participants were students, and the remainder were staff, community members and faculty.

Panel Members for Feb 10, 2020

February 10 Information Session

Reputable Media Sources

Centers for Disease Control:
World Health Organization:

Local Sources

University of Arizona Campus Health:
Pima County Health Department:
Arizona Department of Health Services:

Other sources

ProMed | ProMed is crowdsourced information from experts in countries around the world, this information is more current but also more “ in flux” at times individuals make statements with less certainty than the WHO or CDC as they are reporting more from in the field, corrections are often posted so be sure to read carefully.

Dos and Don'ts to Evaluate Other Media Sources

DO identify the credentials of the individual making the claims or statements about the coronavirus

Are they are reputable scientist? Do they have a background in infectious diseases, bonus points for if they are a coronavirus expert (i.e. has been working on coronavirus research prior to the outbreak)?

DO determine if peer review has been done on any scientific publication being circulated

New preprint platforms have NOT been peer-reviewed. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it is bad science but it means that it has not yet been critically examined by scientists within the field to provide feedback and assessment.

DO see if this is a growing consensus in the field

Are multiple scientists and organizations saying the same thing?

DON’T take numbers at face value, they are often more an indicator of the level of magnitude not an absolute

Surveillance data is often in flux, it is the tip of the iceberg that seek health care and then even fewer get tested, there is typically bias towards reporting of individuals who have more severe illness. In addition, case definitions change over time, if there is a sudden increase/ decrease in cases it could be due to shortages in testing kits, a more inclusive case definition (i.e. more cases are being counted)

Prediction numbers are even more variable – estimates have ranged from the epidemic ending in early March to over 2.5 billion becoming infected. These numbers must all be interpreted with great caution. There is still much unknown about the outbreak, there will be wide variability in these predictions.

DON’T buy into the fear-mongering

Be vigilant, be safe, take precautions such as handwashing, basic hygiene, staying home when sick, as this will protect you from pathogens that are currently present like influenza but don’t spread panic and fear. This is a sure way to make things worse.

DON’T spread misinformation

If you read an article, tweet, or post that seems to be clearly biased or making wild claims, don’t send it on to anyone unless it is an expert who can provide a good rebuttal, even then it is better to do this privately, people often don’t read beyond the headlines.

DON’T provide a platform for voices that are incurring fear-mongering, xenophobia, and discrimination

This means don’t retweet, don’t post things on Facebook to amplify these voices that can do serious damage to trust, public health measures, and our communities.

Panel Members for Feb 10, 2020

Zhao Chen, PhD, MPH
Distinguished Professor and Department Chair
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health
University of Arizona

Kelly A. Reynolds, PhD
Professor & Chair, Community, Environment and Policy
Director, Environment, Exposure Science and Risk Assessment Center (ESRAC)
UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health

Kacey Ernst, PhD
Associate Professor and Program Director of Epidemiology
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health
University of Arizona

Katherine Ellingson, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health
University of Arizona

David Salafsky, DrPH, MPH
Interim Co-Executive Director
Director, Health Promotion & Preventive Services
Campus Health Service
The University of Arizona

Dr. Francisco Garcia, MD, MPH
Health Director and Chief Medical Officer
Pima County Health Department
Professor Emeritus, Health Promotion Sciences
Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health

Brandie Anderson, MPH CIC,
Infection Prevention Program Director,
Banner University Medical Center – Tucson,
adjunct faculty, department of epidemiology and biostatistics,
UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health

Gordon Carr, MD,
Chief Medical Officer and Pulmonologist,
Banner University Medical Center - Tucson

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