Separating fact from fiction about the Coronavirus also known as COVID-19 is a monumental task that public information officers are taking on with a passion. The state of Utah has at least one person who has tested positive for the Coronavirus but that person is showing no symptoms and is in isolation.
Joe Dougherty is the spokesperson for the Utah Division of Emergency Management. He spoke to me on the PAST, Public Affairs Science and Technology Fusion Cell Alexa Flash Briefing about what his state is doing to battle misinformation and panic online and on other information channels, “One of the best things that people can do is really get to know your local public health authorities and your state public health authorities. So here in Utah we created a website, coronavirus.utah.gov. That will become the state’s information clearing house where people can get information about what the virus is, what the disease is, how to protect yourself and what the status is of how many people are being monitored and treated. We want to just make sure that we’re very transparent with all that information.”
Joe also told me that in Utah it is an all hands-on deck situation with a state Joint Information Center being activated and to be staffed indefinitely, “That means determining what key messages need to go out every day,” ultimately keeping the state leadership from the governor on down, well-informed to make good decisions and the public, well-informed to make good decisions.
Joe went on to reinforce that people need to ramp down the panic and when in doubt, go to bonified sources of science not online hyperbole, “Like I said coronavirus.utah.gov is one example of how to continue communicating with the public. We encourage people to rely on the information from your science providers. the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and your state and local health departments.
For previous Alexa Flash Briefings, go to the PAST Fusion Cell website, pastfusion.egs.anl.gov, hover over tool kit and click on Flash Briefings.