WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Couple Brian and Erin Hitchens believed in conspiracy theories online about the coronavirus, resulting in both of them contracting COVID-19. Erin passed away this month.
- Brian told BBC News they thought that coronavirus was just a hoax or something that is associated with the 5G technology.
- Health experts have warned over the coronavirus misinformation that has resulted in more danger and deaths.
A Florida couple’s initial belief that the coronavirus was fake news has resulted in the death of the wife due to COVID-19.
Brian Lee Hitchens and his wife Erin Hitchens believed in claims online that the virus was either a hoax, only associated with the 5G network, or just similar to the flu.
Sharing their story in BBC News, Brian said that he “wished [he’d] listened from the beginning” and hoped his wife would forgive him.
“This is a real virus that affects people differently. I can’t change the past. I can only live in today and make better choices for the future,” he said.
In early May, they disregarded the health guidance and did not ask for medical aid when they both became ill and tested positive for COVID-19.
Brian ignored precautionary guidelines such as social distancing and wearing a face mask. He endured working as a cab driver and obtaining medicine for his wife.
“She’s no longer suffering, but in peace. I go through times missing her, but I know she’s in a better place,” Brian told BBC.
Brian admitted that they did not take the pandemic seriously because of the online theories and assumptions they saw on Facebook.
“We thought the government was using it to distract us… Or it was to do with 5G,” Brian noted.
When the Hitchens fell ill in May, Brian posted what happened to them on Facebook, explaining they were led to a false truth about the virus outbreak.
“If you have to go out please use wisdom and don’t be foolish like I was so the same thing won’t happen to you like it happened to me and my wife,” Brian wrote. His post became viral online.
According to BBC coronavirus tracking, the virus misinformation has led people to assaults, arson, and deaths.
Health experts have warned that fake news and conspiracy theories revolving on the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in more danger and harm among people.
Some critics argued that social media companies need to do more regarding the spread of COVID-19 misinformation.
According to a Facebook spokesman who spoke to BBC, they don’t allow “harmful misinformation” on their platforms, adding that between April and June, they omitted “more than seven million pieces of harmful Covid-19 misinformation, including claims relating to false cures or suggestions that social distancing is ineffective.
Erin, a pastor in Florida, had pre-existing conditions such as asthma and a sleeping disorder that extended her loss against COVID-19.
Source: BBC News