From the doctor: Straight talk on COVID-19


Andrew R. Greenspan, M.D.

Commentary by Andrew R. Greenspan, M.D.

COVID-19 is “coronavirus disease 2019.” It is caused by a virus, SARS-CoV-2. The virus first appeared in late 2019 and quickly spread around the world as a pandemic. As to when it will be under control or done away with is left to conjecture at this time. There have been various myths about COVID-19, and this is an attempt to deliver dispelling facts.

Myth: COVID-19 came from a laboratory in China.

Fact: There exists no proof it was unleashed from a Chinese laboratory, but it is highly likely the virus emanated from an open live-animal market selling bats in the Wuhan district of China.

Myth: The United States isn’t overly affected by COVID-19.

Fact: The U.S. has 4 percent of the world’s population and 22 percent of COVID-19 deaths

Myth: The reported numbers regarding COVID-19 are overly high.

Fact: The U.S case rate and death rate likely significantly have been underestimated.

Myth: COVID-19 mortality rates are overinflated.

Fact: The 2020 death rate from all causes rose compared to 2019, the majority as a result of COVID-19. The death rate from COVID-19 ranges from 1 in 100 to 1 in 500 among known incidences.

Myth: The death rate from the flu is worse than from COVID-19.

Fact: The death rate from Influenza-A is 1 in 1,000.

Myth: Physicians are paid more to note cause of death as COVID-19.

Fact: Physicians are not incentivized to label cause of death as COVID-19 on death certificates.

Myth: “As long as I keep 6 feet of distance, I’m good.”

Fact: The virus mainly spreads from person to persons through air droplets and particles within 6 feet, but sometimes up to as much as 12 feet.

Myth: Surface contact is overhyped.

Fact: It is possible to acquire the virus from surface contact by touching your face. The virus has been shown to survive several days on some surfaces.

Myth: “My pet(s) can’t acquire the virus.”

Fact: It also is possible, but uncommon, for the virus to spread from an infected person to an animal, like a pet. Also, there is no evidence that a person could get the virus from a pet.

Myth: “I’m in good shape because I have no symptoms.”

Fact A person can be infected, and spread the virus to others, even without having any symptoms.

Myth: “Everyone can beat this. I did.”

Fact For most people, symptoms will get better within a few weeks. But a small number of people get extremely sick and lose the ability to breathe on their own. In severe cases, their organs stop working, which can lead to death. Risk of serious illness is greater in older people and those with chronic illnesses, immune deficiency and obesity. While children can get COVID-19, they are less likely than adults to have severe symptoms.

Myth: “I’m safer because I’m loaded up on Vitamin D.”

Fact: Vitamins, mineral supplements and antibiotics cannot prevent or cure COVID-19.

Myth: Masks and distancing aren’t the answer.

Fact: Face masks and social distancing are the most valuable prevention, along with hand washing with at least 60 percent alcohol solution or soap for 20 seconds. UV lamps should not be used to disinfect your hands, but they may be used to disinfect surfaces.

Myth: “Wearing a mask just makes me inhale my own carbon dioxide.”

Fact: Masks do not cause carbon dioxide intoxication or oxygen deficiency.

Myth: “Saltwater kills all germs.”

Fact: Rinsing your nose with a saline solution does not prevent COVID-19.

Myth: “Thank goodness for winter. Bye, bye, COVID-19.”

Fact: Colder weather with freezing temperatures and snow cannot kill the virus.

Myth: “I’ve had COVID-19, so I’m in the clear.”

Fact: There is no proven length of immunity or even a guarantee of immunity after being infected. Re-infection can occur in some cases.

Myth: “Just because they tested positive doesn’t mean I will.”

Fact: If you think you were in close contact with someone with COVID-19, you should get tested, if possible, even if you don’t have any symptoms to protect those with whom you may have come in close contact.

Myth: The vaccine is a total crapshoot.

Fact: Vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna very soon will be available worldwide and represent the best approach to COVID-19 prevention and elimination. Availability of vaccines does not alter the recommended practice of masks and social distancing as preventative practices at this time.

Myth: “There’s no trustworthy information
out there. Everything seems conflicting.”

Fact: The most trusted resources are U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( and the World Health Organization (

For more information, email

Andrew R. Greenspan, M.D., is a hematologist/oncologist with IU Health, in practice at the IU Health Schwarz Cancer Center in Carmel and other IUH sites.


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