ATLANTA — With COVID cases surging in Georgia, Emory Dr. Carlos del Rio is doing his best to fight the misinformation that's spreading just as fast as the pandemic.
He sat down with Emory Brain Health's Jaye Watson to bust some myths about the virus.
They talked about the type of stuff you see when you scroll social media - the untrue articles that get shared thousands of times and are causing real harm to the way people think about COVID-19.
Dr. del Rio said Georgia is close to a breaking point, predicting that ICU's and emergency rooms will be overrun with COVID-19 patients by next week. He said now is the time to stop the spread of the virus.
One of the most harmful myths he thinks is contributing to the spread is that wearing masks is harmful. There's a graphic that's gone viral online that del Rio said is simply just not true.
"Surgeons operate with masks all day," he pushed back. "If you believe [masks are harmful], next time you have surgery, tell your surgeon not to wear a mask because they may fall asleep on the operating table or do something wrong as a result of this. This is a made up science, it's not a reality."
Del Rio admitted that masks "are not natural, they're uncomfortable, they prevent us from seeing each other." But, he said they're necessary.
Del Rio said wearing a mask and social distancing are the two best things you can do to protect your family.
"People are really wanting to get back to school, they're really wanting to get back to sports, they really want to get back to normal. If we don't stop transmission of the virus, we are never getting back to normal," he said pointedly. "So, forget your conspiracy theories, do the right thing so we can stop transmission of the virus."
As the numbers go up, del Rio worries people have grown complacent about staying safe from the virus.
"Number one, you don't need to confront this virus, you can actually avoid it," he said. "It's not going to come up and assault your house. It's going to come up because you're close to somebody whose infected."
Dr. Carlos del Rio said people in Georgia should be doing everything they can to prevent getting the coronavirus. The state just set a new record in hospitalizations Thursday, with 2,322 people logged as receiving treatment. He worries the numbers will only go up if people aren't careful.
"When you go to the hospital and the hospitals are full and they can't take care of you, don't complain. Just realize that you're part of the problem," he said.
It's not just like the flu
Del Rio said when people compare COVID-19 to the seasonal flu, they're just wrong.
"The data is very very clear," he said. "COVID is twenty times deadlier than the flu. So, I guess it's like the flu - but twenty times worse. Especially if you're over the age of 65, in particular, if you happen to be diabetic, or have hypertension."
Del Rio warned that Georgia is just a few days behind Texas and Florida for hospitalization rates, and by next week the state could be in real trouble.
"It surprises me that people don't realize that," he said. "We are in a crisis situation. We are at a critical point."
While del Rio said he does believe students can go back to school in a few weeks, he said it will only be possible if Georgia is able to slow the community spread of the virus, and schools are able to require masks and socially distance.
Without those two components, he doesn't think students should go back.
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