As Numbers Rise, Virus Deniers Persist

'Irrational fear,' is the refrain from those who think the threat is exaggerated
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2020 9:21 AM CDT
As Numbers Rise, Virus Deniers Persist
Cece Guida, 19, top, of New York City, pushes on Sam Reddick, 20, of Evansville, Ind., as spring break revelers look on during a game of chicken fight on the beach, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Pompano Beach, Fla.   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Call them the "virus deniers." Some think COVID-19 is a media-fueled hoax, others say the virus is real but the reaction to it is way out of proportion—put Lost star Evangeline Lilly in this camp—and still others (such as young spring-breakers) have been brazenly ignoring pleas to stop congregating. Coverage:

  • Spring break: One group getting a lot of attention is college students bent on partying despite the outbreak. This video via CBS was in wide circulation, featuring a guy saying, "If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I'm not going to let it stop me from partying." The party may be harder to find, though: While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declined to close beaches, local officials in Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and elsewhere are doing so on their own, reports NBC News. DeSantis did, however, close bars and nightclubs, ordered a limit of gatherings to 10 people, and declared that "spring break's done" on Thursday, per CNN and Fox13.

  • Still skeptical: At, Jessica Remo notes that things are changing fast in terms of confirmed infections, so she reached out to virus deniers who have been publicizing their doubts to see if any have had a change of heart. That includes New Jersey radio personality Bill Spadea, who has been pushing a "no-worse-than-the-flu" theme publicly. She got no response. "Crickets," she writes. But "as I plumbed the depths, it’s this fact that I found more terrifying," she adds. "People are still in denial."
  • Common refrain: The Washington Post has a feature on the group it christens "virus deniers," and a common theme is skeptics complaining they don't personally know anyone infected. "Yet concerts are canceled, tournaments are canceled, and entire school districts shut down," says 47-year-old Brandon Crist of Wellsville, Kansas. "Out of total irrational fear. If you have not previously feared the power of the media you should be terrified of them now." The story includes the comments of a 73-year-old man in the same town who is defying pleas to remain home. "We just need to trust the Lord to solve this," he says, and is handing out cards to that effect. They say COVID should mean "Christ over viruses & infectious diseases."
  • A response: The New York Times highlights the story of Heaven Frilot of Louisiana, whose friends were sarcastically posting about the virus threat and repeating the refrain mentioned above: Does anyone know somebody who's actually sick? She finally had to put up a post of her own, informing friends that her husband, Mark, 45 and otherwise healthy, was infected and now in the ICU. Because he was initially misdiagnosed with the flu, "we have exposed it to others unknowingly," she added. "For that I am truly sorry."
  • The media: A Pew Research Poll finds that 52% of Americans think the media has exaggerated the threat to some degree, while 8% say it has underplayed the seriousness.
  • Shift at Fox: Much coverage has noted the shift of tone at Fox News. On March 9, for example, Sean Hannity said the media was "scaring the living hell out of people. And I see them again as like, 'Oh, OK, let’s bludgeon Trump with this new hoax,'" per Deadline. The same day, Fox Business Host Trish Regan declared, "This is yet another attempt to impeach the president." But now Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and others are calling the threat real. "This program has always taken the coronavirus seriously and we’ve never called the virus a hoax," said Hannity this week, per the Washington Post. Regan, meanwhile, has been at least temporarily removed from her hosting duties, though Fox says it was part of a general reshuffling for pandemic coverage, per the New York Times.
(More coronavirus stories.)

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