In every pandemic that has confronted human civilization, the greatest threat has often been inaccurate information that causes people to believe wrong things or engage in behaviors that hinder efforts to stop the spread of disease.

COVID-19 has been an especially difficult pandemic to fight in part because of the abundance of social media and an “internet culture” in 2020 that often amplifies false or misleading messages.

Here in Hawaii, we’ve already had a taste of what kind of chaos misinformation can ignite, first with the rumor that COVID-19 would shut down shipping to the islands, and later with rage against Gov. David Ige after a parody website claimed that alcohol would be banned.

With new protests popping up in Hawaii, a lot of claims are being made that should be carefully considered before allowing them to change one’s opinion or behaviors.

Inaccurate information about the COIVD-19 crisis and the economic fallout have triggered irrational fears among some people.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

While some of the spread of “viral” misinformation is simply the result of people innocently being trigger-happy in retweeting or reposting a message online, a bigger part of the problem that we have in 2020 comes from the fact that ignorance abounds, particularly when it comes to important things like public health or the economy.

Lately, you might have heard some of your ohana getting restless over the stay-at-home order and potential impacts on the national economy or civil liberties.

I think it’s helpful to go through some of these things, so that not only can you feel confident in obeying the orders of civil authorities on COVID-19, but that you can also quash irrational fears being spread online.

Myth #1: “If things get any worse, the economy will crash, and we won’t be able to withdraw money from the bank!”

This is one of my favorites, because the “run on the bank” trope seems to come up with every crisis, whether it is a natural disaster, pandemic or war. More recently, television pundits have compared the severity of the coronavirus impact on our economy with the 2007-2008 financial crisis, and this has in part led people to be particularly antsy in calling for the economy to reopen, virus or not.

One thing is certain, COVID-19’s challenges to markets are distinctly different from the last global financial crisis and the Great Depression. Both of those historical crises experienced what is termed a “liquidity crunch” or shortage of credit, which is the exact opposite of the problem we have in 2020, where the Federal Reserve has essentially opened up the floodgates of lending.

One problem you will definitely not have for the foreseeable future is your bank running out of money with the Fed in “helicopter mode” dumping credit on markets and Congress passing numerous stimulus bills.

There is a silver lining in all of this, however. While an increase in the money supply often leads to inflation, the stay-at-home orders have artificially produced lower demand for many things, one of them being gasoline. As a result, prices can actually be expected to drop in most goods and services, making the money in your bank go farther, at least for now.

Myth #2: “Hawaii will never gain back jobs lost in this shutdown.”

In the science fiction movie “The Matrix,” Morpheus, a pirate hacker-captain warns, “If you die in the Matrix, you die for real.” Some locals seem to think that Hawaii employment will be the same way, and that every job lost in the stay-at-home orders will be lost … forever!

In reality, once pandemics are over there is usually a massive demand for labor. Getting hired isn’t the problem; being healthy is. A report written by the St. Louis Federal Reserve during the George W. Bush administration illustrates how the biggest problem plaguing industries and businesses following the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic was a lack of an able workforce due to mass deaths.

Labor tends to be in great demand after a pandemic.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

This is why it is foolish to rush to go back to work in the hopes of jump-starting the economy only six months into coronavirus.

History reveals time and again the economic problem caused by a pandemic is always a lack of healthy workers to produce, not a lack of consumers to consume. In that same vein, government revenues depend on healthy people paying taxes, not sick people stuck in the hospital.

Wages also increase for healthy workers following a pandemic, so the long and the short of it is if you’re healthy, if you’re clear-minded, and if you want to find a job, nothing will stop you once coronavirus is over.

Myth #3: “Digital immunity certificates are government preparing for new levels of tyranny!”

The recent suggestion that either persons who contracted COVID-19 and survived, or individuals who receive a future coronavirus vaccine, be given digital immunity certificates – possibly in the form of an electronic tattoo – has many people up in arms that this is a new form of tyranny.

In reality, certificates could likely make it possible to open up the economy faster and manage the potential spread of COVID-19, but the presence of antibodies and whether they grant immunity is a contested matter.

This being said, the technology is unlikely to occur because there are far simpler/cheaper ways to control infection, one of them being a stay-at-home order.

As both a Republican and an evangelical Christian, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told “the mark of the beast is about to be rolled out” with the latest technological or political development. Trust me friends, this is not it.

Don’t give in to irrational phobias during this time, and take a moment to really think about what people are saying before you share it. You CAN handle staying at home just a little longer.

We will get through COVID-19, and we will get through it a lot faster when we use common sense, history, and use some of that science we learned in high school.

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