Our View

There are a lot of folks adding to or playing on our concern, confusion and fear as the coronavirus spreads across the nation and COVID-19 deaths mount, but we see different levels of culpability.

At one end of the scale of shame are those snippets of public service scaremongering, faux diagnostics or erroneous elixirs shared regarding the disease that are generally passed along in good faith by people of good intention who just aren’t careful enough in vetting their information. Misinformation widely shared in the current outbreak includes: Keeping your throat moist or gargling with salt water will prevent coronavirus infection (it won’t); holding your breath for 10 seconds or more is a simple way to check that you don’t have COVID-19 (it isn’t); and breathing hot air from a hair dryer is a simple cure for COVID-19 (not even remotely). Such misinformation can be harmful and dangerous. To make sure you aren’t misguided, do two things: Stop sharing posts about the disease without vetting the source, and check any information on symptoms, prevention, tests or treatments against information from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

Next, deeper in disrepute are those who engage in profiteering as the virus spreads. Toss in this pile senators who sold stock to avoid losses they saw on the horizon while telling the public not to worry; those who snapped up hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and face masks intending to resell them at a steep markup as fear grew and supplies fell; and stores — convenience or otherwise — that are selling toilet paper at a steep premium as the inexplicable hoarding of that hygiene item has accelerated. The solutions here are varied and include notifying eBay or Amazon for online offenders; filing a complaint with the attorney general or other appropriate official under the price gouging laws in your state; contacting your elected representative; and, in the case of the self-serving elected, using the ballot box.

The most debased in this roll call of wrongdoers include purveyors of teas, essential oils and colloidal silver promoted as pseudo protection and counterfeit cures, whose ranks include televangelist Jim Bakker and six other sellers recently warned by the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration to cease their false marketing. The Federal Trade Commission warns: “There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.”

Add to the list of the lowest scum those scammers who use our desire to help as a way to trick people into giving to charities that help only to line the tricksters’ pockets.

Be vigilant, and report suspected coronavirus cheaters through the U.S. Justice Department at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/GettingStarted?NextQID=409&Selected=t#crnt.

These final examples of how low we can go deserve the disgust we heap on them, but they also deserve prosecution, fines and prison.

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