NewsLocal News


Black people can get COVID-19; website gives trustworthy information, dispels myths

"People were starting to panic"
Posted at 12:52 AM, Apr 07, 2020

Dr. Anisa Shomo wants people to know the truth about COVID-19, and she uses social media to share information under the name "Dr. Shomo Knows."

“One of my friends sent me a message on Facebook with like this long five-minute video and she asked me, ‘Is any of this stuff true?' Unfortunately, most of it was not,” she said.

Also not true?

“Gargle with warm liquids; that could kill it. That is absolutely false. There’s been another thing about gargling with salt water. Absolutely false,” said Shomo, who is the director of family medicine scholars at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

But, perhaps the most disturbing myth being perpetuated was that African Americans don't get COVID-19.

"With the misinformation that black people couldn’t get it and that sort of thing, that was dangerous," Shomo said. "That made a lot of people not protect themselves."

That's why several Cincinnati organizations want to combat the misinformation and provide information from a trusted source. They formed a website called as a centralized location for verified information about the virus, unemployment benefits, the CARES Act and more. They are working with Cincinnati City Council member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, The Center for Closing the Health Gap, NAACP, Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber, Cincinnati Medical Association and Greater Cincinnati Urban League. Many of them heard from local residents expressing confusion.

“All of us were getting a lot of calls from people saying we’re confused, we don’t know what to do. Even, you know, do we stay home or not?” Lemon Kearney said. “People were starting to panic. And, we don’t want the public to panic.”

Renee Mahaffey Harris, president and CEO of the Center for Closing the Health Gap, had a similar experience.

"I got another text from someone saying, 'Where can I get resources?' And, they were both seniors," Mahaffey Harris said. "So while there is a lot of information out there, I realized there probably needs to be a more trusted source," she said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Shomo said she and her medical colleagues are concerned that the impact of COVID-19 on African American communities may be greater because of health disparities.

“That has absolutely been a lot of people’s fears from the beginning," she said. "It’s because health disparities have been around for a very, very long time."

Mahaffey Harris agreed, saying that as we recognize the existence of those disparities, we can take steps right now to ensure that people get the information, resources and access to care that they need.

However, the care needed for some could become more serious because of pre-existing conditions.

“Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, those are things that can increase your risk for being hospitalized and needing to be in the ICU,” Dr. Shomo said.

That makes the accurate information provided by the website important, and potentially life-saving. Lemon Kearney stresses that people should check on those without internet access to make sure they have accurate information as well.

“Call them," Lemon Kearney said. "If you can’t call them, you have to leave notes on their door. But, let them know. So if people have questions, they can ask you.

“We’re going to get through this. We want people to know you’re not alone."

Here are some additional tips from Dr. Anisa Shomo:

  1. Stay at home
  2. Limit going out to once or twice a week
  3. Wash your hands
  4. If wearing a mask, avoid touching your face to adjust it. That defeats the purpose and spreads the germs. Otherwise, the mask isn’t helping.
  5. Stay connected to family
  6. Find things you enjoy about being at home (declutter, have barbecues, dance)