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News Literacy: Breaking down COVID misinformation in Milwaukee Co.

Posted at 5:23 AM, Jan 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 14:03:19-05

MILWAUKEE — It’s National News Literacy Week and we’re partnering with the News Literacy Project to help viewers figure out what’s credible and what’s not.

Milwaukee County leaders are trying to make sure you have the most accurate information to handle COVID-19.

“I have never seen anything this upsetting in my entire career, as the misinformation on COVID-19, and disinformation,” says Dr. Sheldon Wasserman.

Wasserman is a local OB/GYN, and serves as a Milwaukee County Board Supervisor.

He’s frustrated.

He says his patients and constituents mistakenly believe incorrect information about the validity of the pandemic and the safety of vaccines.

“We are seeing people die across the State of Wisconsin and across this country from being told the wrong information, believing the wrong information, and it’s just terrible,” Wasserman says.

That’s why he helped get medical misinformation declared a public health crisis in Milwaukee County. The final vote was 16 to 1.

“Medical misinformation is portraying information incorrectly and basically saying it’s one thing when it’s really something it’s not,” Wasserman says.

Wasserman says the public health crisis helps raise awareness that there’s a problem.

“And that what they read online and they hear from their friends about something might not be true," he said.

Dr. Ben Weston is the county’s chief health policy advisor – and played a big role in this declaration.

Weston says there’s plenty of purposeful disinformation out there.

“But I think equally pervasive and perhaps even more troubling is misinformation that people don’t realize they’re propagating,” he says.

He says people unintentionally spread misinformation through social media and word of mouth. Weston says these people don’t necessarily have malicious intent. They may not have the time or resources to seek out more accurate information.

But there’s one source you can always turn to – your doctor.

“We have the ability to counter that misinformation with simple, straightforward facts and often change that patient’s mind, and do what’s best for that patient and get them protected,” Weston says. “And get their family protected, their community protected.”

“Talk to your physician and talk to your medical professional,” says Wasserman. “Get help from reliable sources, not from somebody on some website somewhere around the world spreading misinformation.”

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