Windsor

'If you don't know what you're talking about, stay quiet' says Hotel Dieu CEO about coronavirus misinformation

The CEO of Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is warning people not to overreact to rumours and inaccurate information about the coronavirus popping up on social media sites and online.

'There is a willful disregard for the truth,' says Hotel-Dieu's Janice Kaffer

Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus as they arrive on a flight from Asia at the Los Angeles International Airport, California, on January 29, 2020. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

The CEO of Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is warning people not to overreact to rumours and inaccurate information about the coronavirus popping up on social media sites and online.

"We're seeing people spread rumours, innuendoes. We're seeing some media sources putting out information that is not factual," said Janice Kaffer. "There is a willful disregard for the truth."

Hotel-Dieu Grace Healtcare CEO Janice Kaffer warns against false information about the coronavirus on the internet. (CBC)

The vice-president of the Essex County Chinese Canadian Association said local Chinese Windsorites are overreacting to posts on social media sites, so the association is moving to calm fears.

"We're just asking people to stay calm and not overreact to the rumours," said Sungee John.

Kaffer was a manager in a surgical unit at a community hospital in Eastern Ontario during the SARS epidemic in 2003 and said social media has played a big role in how misinformation is spreading for this virus.

In 2003, Kaffer said information was mostly shared through credible sources such as hospitals and public health units  — there was no social media.

"One of the key differences between SARS and this situation we're facing now is the availability and ease by which misinformation and fear mongering will be able to flourish," said Kaffer, adding she is disturbed by bullying and racist " outrageous behaviour" directed toward the Chinese Canadian community.

Kaffer urged everyone to go to reputable sources for information such as the World Health Organization and the public health websites.

"Be calm, be measured, be factual, be educated," said Kaffer. "Get the information you need and if you don't know what you're talking about stay quiet."

With files from Chris Ensing

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