BILLINGS - From vaccine hesitancy to unsubstantiated treatments for COVID-19, misinformation about the virus has placed its own plague on the pandemic.
KPAX and KAJ's parent company, E.W. Scripps, is once again teaming up with the News Literacy Project for News Literacy Week. The purpose of the company-wide initiative is to shine a light on better information consumption and sharing.
But in the age of a global pandemic and a nation politically divided, frontline healthcare workers are not only trying to save lives from the virus but also combating COVID myths at the same time.
Inside the halls of the Billings Clinic Emergency Department, Dr. Jamiee Belsky sees and hears it all.
“I had someone come the other day and they say I still don't think COVID-19 is real. And I said really?” she said. “We've got 30 people in the hospital right now with COVID-19.”
Belsky says patients have questions regarding treatments and the vaccine.
“So, if you're looking at which one's actually safer, the vaccine is actually the safest medicine we have against COVID right now,” she said.
Still, she finds herself pulling up medically sourced and researched websites with valuable information to share, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
“Those are scientists. They've gone to years of school,” she said. “Don't go with Susie’s cousin's sister who said that this worked on her friend, go with the people that actually are doing science properly, that use the right method and so you can know that you're getting the correct information."
The News Literacy Project is a nonpartisan national education nonprofit that provides resources for educators and the public to teach and learn how to be an active consumer of news information.
However, throughout the pandemic false rumors, conspiracy theories about the side effects of the vaccine, and treatments for COVID have caused serious and deadly situations for people.
Physicians just like Belsky in every state are dealing treading through how to make patients understand the process for treatments and trust in scientifically sourced and proven remedies.
In the process, she says social media is a hurdle.
“So, what I do is if I see a new story that sounds kind of different and I'm not sure if I believe that, I’ll go to a reputable source and back it up,” she explains. “Go to the sites where it's actually evidence-based. Go to the sites that are scientific, so when you do your research, you're doing it the right way.”
Newslit.org has a list of websites that are medically and scientifically backed to use as a reference for misinformation and guidance.
In addition, there are interactive lessons for teachers to use as a guide in teaching news literacy and a "check center" that can hone verification skills.
Bottom line: News literacy can save lives, especially considering the misinformation circulating from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Belsky says she’s all for people "doing their research" but she still points to visiting evidence-based websites that are scientific to do help.
“I don't mind if people say I have a questioning attitude,” she said. “We see (Covid) every day. It definitely is real. It definitely is affecting people and people are still getting sick,” she said.