Accessing Intelligent Information About Covid-19

Mar 18, 2020

The Covid 19 pandemic is highlighting the risks and benefits of being so physically and virtually connected across the globe. Like a virus, information has many avenues by which to travel quickly these days. Here, a communications expert discusses best practices for steering through the deluge of information you may be experiencing.

Professor Jenifer Winters specializes in information and communication technologies. She is Graduate Chair of the School of Communications at UH Manoa.
Credit Jenifer Winters

Professor Jenifer Winter, is Graduate Chair of the UH Manoa School of Communications. She says being an intelligent media consumer is key right now.

“What I’ve been trying to do is stay abreast of what the scientific community is saying. Listening very carefully to official medical sources, my own doctor all the way through things like the WHO, CDC, etc., and making sure I’m verifying any information I’m getting there.”

The state of Hawai‘i is warning about scams and price gouging related to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying not to click on links from sources you do not know, and beware of goods, services and solicitations related to the pandemic. There have already been attempts to take advantage of the public's thirst for information. Meanwhile, lifestyle disruption can make us more vulnerable.

“One of the biggest things to think about is the fact that so many folks can’t just easily work from home. If they’re not out and about, they’re not going to be able to bring home paychecks.”

Winter says this public health crisis shines a glaring light on how income disparity plays out in America.

“So many of us are living paycheck to paycheck. This is a major issue and it also underlies many aspects of modern America where we don’t have healthcare for all, we don’t have paid medical leave, and so forth. There’s a huge divide between folks in terms of their ability to self-isolate.”

Telecommuting has been a growing trend, in 2017, the New York Times reported 43% of Americans doing at least some work remotely.  However, Winter points to medical professionals, food, entertainment, supplies and service professionals, and others who cannot work remotely.

“And we also feel a conflict because we want to support those industries as they’re struggling.  One of the big issues now is that we’ve got these wonderful, in a sense, community entanglements where we’re in conflict within ourselves over which actions to take.”

Winter says uncertainty about how widespread the virus is in the community, allows other considerations to influence decision-making.

“We’re worried rightfully about our paychecks, about our community, about our kupuna, about what are we going to do with the kids? The uncertainty here can have an almost paralyzing effect.”

Winter advises checking other jurisdictions for their experiences and best practices, staying abreast of world, national, and local news, and, she says, prepare for the possibility of even further restrictions on activities. 

“Everyone should be extra critical minded in assessing the sources they are consuming. Get away from it as well, if you can, enjoy yourself, do something you’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’m going to take up painting if I have some spare time. And let’s get through this together.”

The pandemic has inspired surprising displays of solidarity--- Spaniards cheering health workers from their balconies and Italians embracing government directives. Wuhan residents shouted off lanais to boost each others’ spirits, too. Here in Hawai‘i, neighbors are watching kids, people report tipping more heavily, and businesses are pitching in--Foodland announced yesterday they will open only to seniors for the first hour of business three days of the week.