Until not long ago, Brian Lee Hitchens believed in theories circulating on the Internet that the Coronavirus pandemic was a hoax. This driver from Florida (USA) and his wife Erin shared the social media claims that SARS-CoV-2, the cause of Covid-19, is a manufactured virus, which is related to 5G cellular technology or It just causes something similar to the flu. So they did not follow the recommendations to avoid contagion, nor did they seek help when they fell ill in early May.
Although the man was able to recover, his 46-year-old wife was not so lucky and was seriously hospitalized. She died a few days ago from heart problems related to Covid-19.
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Erin Hitchens, a pastor in Florida, had pre-existing health problems: she suffered from asthma and a sleep disorder. Her husband explained that the couple did not follow the health recommendations at the beginning of the pandemic because they believed some theories about the origin of the Coronavirus that they saw on the internet.
Brian Hitchens continued to work as an Uber driver and was in charge of bringing medicine for his wife. When they fell ill in May, they did not seek immediate help and both were later diagnosed in Covid-19 tests. The man told that he “wished he had listened to the health guidelines from the beginning” and that he “hoped his wife would forgive him”. “This is a real virus that affects people differently. I cannot change the past. I can only live in the present and make better decisions for the future,” he said. “She is no longer suffering, she is now at peace. I spent my time missing her, but I know she is in a better place,” he added. “Don’t let the same thing happen to you”.
Hitchens said he and his wife did not have a firm belief about the existence or effects of Covid-19. Instead, they weighed ideas that the virus was either a hoax, linked to 5G technology, or a real but mild ailment. They came across these theories on Facebook.
“We thought the government was using it to distract us,” the man said. “Or it had to do with 5G.” But after the couple fell ill in May, the man wrote a post on Facebook that went viral, explaining that he was misled by what he saw on the social network. “If you have to go out, use the knowledge and don’t be stupid like me so that the same thing that happens to me and my wife doesn’t happen to you,” he wrote.
Doctors and experts have warned of the potential for indirect harm caused by online rumors, conspiracy theories and misinformation about health. They note that the outreach of these publications continues to be enormous, especially as anti-vaccination theories grow.
While social media firms have tried to address misinformation about the Coronavirus on their platforms, critics argue that more needs to be done in the coming months. A Facebook spokesperson declared: “We do not allow harmful disinformation on our platforms.” “Between April and June, we removed more than seven million pieces of harmful information about COVID-19, including claims related to false cures or suggestions that social distancing is ineffective.”