- Based on the data we have, COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus — is most dangerous for older people.
- But Fox News, a network whose audience is primarily older people, is downplaying the virus during its most popular opinion programs.
- While the network seems to be doing this to make a political point, it's important to communicate the actual risks involved with the coronavirus — especially to older people.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Take a look at this chart, first published by my colleagues Aria Bendix and Shayanne Gal:
The chart is based on a study of 44,000 Chinese patients confirmed to have COVID-19 through February 11 and gives one of the broadest looks at the nature of the illness. As the chart makes very plain, the novel coronavirus, and the disease it leads to, COVID-19, is most dangerous for people ages 50 and older. It's even worse for people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s.
My opinion is that people in those age groups should be taking the spread of the virus very seriously.
Unfortunately, Fox News, the cable news network with an audience that consists mostly of older Americans, has spent much of its airtime over the past few days downplaying news of the virus as a political conspiracy.
On Thursday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity told his giant audience of mostly older people this: "I can report the sky is absolutely falling, we're all doomed, the end is near," Hannity said, adding, "Or at least that's what the media mob and the Democratic extreme, radical socialist party want you to think."
Hannity's colleague, the also very popular Laura Ingraham, had the following words plastered onto the bottom of the screen during her program:
- "LEFT'S CORONAVIRUS SMEAR CAMPAIGN"
- "LEFT'S CORONAVIRUS FEARMONGERING"
- "LEFT TRYING TO PANIC AMERICANS OVER CORONAVIRUS"
At this moment, it's not particularly important to understand why Fox News hosts are so set on downplaying a virus and disease that represent an especially lethal threat to its audience.
CNN's Oliver Darcy, who has been watching the situation and whose newsletter alerted me to Ingraham's and Hannity's comments last night, persuasively argues that it's because they are supporters of President Donald Trump.
My view right now on this theory: Who cares?
None of this is about politics. It's about keeping people alive.
So here is my message to Insider's audience, which unlike Fox News', tends to be between 18 and 35 years old — a group that isn't under as much a threat as older Americans:
- Talk to your parents about the virus.
- Urge them to ignore Fox News.
- Send them the chart in this post.
- Send them a link from Insider or the UN on what precautions they can and should take.
- Don't bring up politics.
US health officials think the coronavirus is likely to spread in the US.
"It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the head of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a media briefing.
Given that message, it's even more important to treat the virus seriously, and hopefully our parents and relatives will all be OK. More information is better than less, and it's better to be safe than sorry. Thanks!