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KSL Investigates 3 COVID-19 Myths & Misconceptions

A member of the dialysis prepares to treat a patient with coronavirus in the intensive care unit at a hospital on May 1, 2020 in Leonardtown, Maryland. The coronavirus death toll in D.C., Virginia and Maryland surpassed 2,000 people on Friday as the District recorded its largest number of daily infections thus far. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s been a year since the novel coronavirus first started making global news, and nine months since much of the country went into lockdowns, quarantines and isolation. It’s no secret a lot of ideas and misconceptions are out there. The KSL Investigators have looked into some of the more prevalent ones.

Myth #1: “Utah Inflates COVID-19 Numbers” 

The KSL Investigates team responded to local claims that the numbers reported by the Utah Department of Health were inflated.

They also looked into claims that anyone who died of other causes, but happened to be positive for the virus at the time of their death, was included in the health department’s numbers, regardless of the circumstances of their death.

Health officials said that’s not the case.

“About 15-18 percent of all deaths go through the medical examiner,” said Becky Ward, a health educator with the Department of Health’s Bureau of Epidemiology. “It’s not unusual, it’s not atypical, but we want to make sure [COVID-19] deaths are verified and certified as a cause of death.”

Ward said every deceased person whose body goes to the medical examiner receives a COVID-19 test. However, if the autopsy does not reveal that COVID-19 was the cause of death, it is not listed as such.

“It will not just automatically be listed as the cause of death,” she continued.

Myth #2: “The Flu is Worse Than COVID”

The KSL Investigators also wanted to find truth with the notion that the flu is worse than COVID.

“COVID is so much more serious,” Ward told KSL TV. “It spreads easier, and it is more infectious.”

According to Utah’s influenza report, the 2017-2018 flu season was the most severe of the last six years, with a cumulative hospitalization rate of 71.06 per 100,000 Utahns.

Ward said hospitalizations from COVID-19 since March 2020 have had a cumulative rate of 213.95 per 100,000 Utahns – three times higher that of the flu.

“What we have been seeing is that COVID causes more hospitalizations, and it has caused more deaths,” said Ward.

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2018 showed 353 Utahns died from both influenza and pneumonia that year.

COVID-19 has already killed more than twice that number in Utah, with nearly 868 deaths as a result of the virus.

Myth #3: “A Rushed Vaccine Make It Less Safe”

Two pharmaceutical companies said they were ready for approval for their COVID-19 vaccines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Britain has already begun inoculations of the Pfizer vaccine.

For months, some  officials have said a vaccine could take 18-24 months to develop, manufacture and distribute. However, after 9-10 months, the first round await FDA approval.

The speed at which the immunizations have come to market has several people concerned that a rush to get the medication to patients may have compromised the vaccine’s integrity.

The KSL Investigators spoke with Dr. Sankar Swaminathan, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah. He said, if the vaccines are approved by the FDA, the public should feel comfortable.

“There’s no evidence that any of the components of any vaccine that’s approved for use is fundamentally dangerous,” he said. “If it were, it wouldn’t be approved.”

Dr. Swaminathan said scientists were able to develop and test the COVID-19 vaccine quicker then expected because of funding  and  previous research.

Several pharmaceutical and governments invested heavily in research to curb the global pandemic.

“There was a lot of economic investment – (an) unparalleled amount of economic investment,” Swaminathan said.

Access to trial subjects and research into past pandemics also helped.

LINK: More on Brittany Glas’ report about the safety of approved vaccines

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