How to Write About Coronavirus in a College Essay
Students can share how they navigated life during the coronavirus pandemic in a full-length essay or an optional supplement.
Writing About COVID-19 in College Essays
Experts say students should be honest and not limit themselves to merely their experiences with the pandemic. (Getty Images)
The global impact of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, means colleges and prospective students alike are in for an admissions cycle like no other. Both face unprecedented challenges and questions as they grapple with their respective futures amid the ongoing fallout of the pandemic.
Colleges must examine applicants without the aid of standardized test scores for many – a factor that prompted many schools to go test-optional for now . Even grades, a significant component of a college application, may be hard to interpret with some high schools adopting pass-fail classes last spring due to the pandemic. Major college admissions factors are suddenly skewed.
"I can't help but think other (admissions) factors are going to matter more," says Ethan Sawyer, founder of the College Essay Guy, a website that offers free and paid essay-writing resources.
College essays and letters of recommendation , Sawyer says, are likely to carry more weight than ever in this admissions cycle. And many essays will likely focus on how the pandemic shaped students' lives throughout an often tumultuous 2020.
But before writing a college essay focused on the coronavirus, students should explore whether it's the best topic for them.
Writing About COVID-19 for a College Application
Much of daily life has been colored by the coronavirus. Virtual learning is the norm at many colleges and high schools, many extracurriculars have vanished and social lives have stalled for students complying with measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.
"For some young people, the pandemic took away what they envisioned as their senior year," says Robert Alexander, dean of admissions, financial aid and enrollment management at the University of Rochester in New York. "Maybe that's a spot on a varsity athletic team or the lead role in the fall play. And it's OK for them to mourn what should have been and what they feel like they lost, but more important is how are they making the most of the opportunities they do have?"
That question, Alexander says, is what colleges want answered if students choose to address COVID-19 in their college essay.
But the question of whether a student should write about the coronavirus is tricky. The answer depends largely on the student.
"In general, I don't think students should write about COVID-19 in their main personal statement for their application," Robin Miller, master college admissions counselor at IvyWise, a college counseling company, wrote in an email.
"Certainly, there may be exceptions to this based on a student's individual experience, but since the personal essay is the main place in the application where the student can really allow their voice to be heard and share insight into who they are as an individual, there are likely many other topics they can choose to write about that are more distinctive and unique than COVID-19," Miller says.
Opinions among admissions experts vary on whether to write about the likely popular topic of the pandemic.
"If your essay communicates something positive, unique, and compelling about you in an interesting and eloquent way, go for it," Carolyn Pippen, principal college admissions counselor at IvyWise, wrote in an email. She adds that students shouldn't be dissuaded from writing about a topic merely because it's common, noting that "topics are bound to repeat, no matter how hard we try to avoid it."
Above all, she urges honesty.
"If your experience within the context of the pandemic has been truly unique, then write about that experience, and the standing out will take care of itself," Pippen says. "If your experience has been generally the same as most other students in your context, then trying to find a unique angle can easily cross the line into exploiting a tragedy, or at least appearing as though you have."
But focusing entirely on the pandemic can limit a student to a single story and narrow who they are in an application, Sawyer says. "There are so many wonderful possibilities for what you can say about yourself outside of your experience within the pandemic."
He notes that passions, strengths, career interests and personal identity are among the multitude of essay topic options available to applicants and encourages them to probe their values to help determine the topic that matters most to them – and write about it.
That doesn't mean the pandemic experience has to be ignored if applicants feel the need to write about it.
Writing About Coronavirus in Main and Supplemental Essays
Students can choose to write a full-length college essay on the coronavirus or summarize their experience in a shorter form.
To help students explain how the pandemic affected them, The Common App has added an optional section to address this topic. Applicants have 250 words to describe their pandemic experience and the personal and academic impact of COVID-19.
"That's not a trick question, and there's no right or wrong answer," Alexander says. Colleges want to know, he adds, how students navigated the pandemic, how they prioritized their time, what responsibilities they took on and what they learned along the way.
If students can distill all of the above information into 250 words, there's likely no need to write about it in a full-length college essay, experts say. And applicants whose lives were not heavily altered by the pandemic may even choose to skip the optional COVID-19 question.
"This space is best used to discuss hardship and/or significant challenges that the student and/or the student's family experienced as a result of COVID-19 and how they have responded to those difficulties," Miller notes. Using the section to acknowledge a lack of impact, she adds, "could be perceived as trite and lacking insight, despite the good intentions of the applicant."
To guard against this lack of awareness, Sawyer encourages students to tap someone they trust to review their writing , whether it's the 250-word Common App response or the full-length essay.
Experts tend to agree that the short-form approach to this as an essay topic works better, but there are exceptions. And if a student does have a coronavirus story that he or she feels must be told, Alexander encourages the writer to be authentic in the essay.
"My advice for an essay about COVID-19 is the same as my advice about an essay for any topic – and that is, don't write what you think we want to read or hear," Alexander says. "Write what really changed you and that story that now is yours and yours alone to tell."
Sawyer urges students to ask themselves, "What's the sentence that only I can write?" He also encourages students to remember that the pandemic is only a chapter of their lives and not the whole book.
Miller, who cautions against writing a full-length essay on the coronavirus, says that if students choose to do so they should have a conversation with their high school counselor about whether that's the right move. And if students choose to proceed with COVID-19 as a topic, she says they need to be clear, detailed and insightful about what they learned and how they adapted along the way.
"Approaching the essay in this manner will provide important balance while demonstrating personal growth and vulnerability," Miller says.
Pippen encourages students to remember that they are in an unprecedented time for college admissions.
"It is important to keep in mind with all of these (admission) factors that no colleges have ever had to consider them this way in the selection process, if at all," Pippen says. "They have had very little time to calibrate their evaluations of different application components within their offices, let alone across institutions. This means that colleges will all be handling the admissions process a little bit differently, and their approaches may even evolve over the course of the admissions cycle."
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Persuasive Essay Guide
Persuasive Essay About Covid19
How to Write a Persuasive Essay About Covid19 | Examples & Tips
11 min read
Published on: Feb 22, 2023
Last updated on: Nov 22, 2023
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Are you looking to write a persuasive essay about the Covid-19 pandemic?
Writing a compelling and informative essay about this global crisis can be challenging. It requires researching the latest information, understanding the facts, and presenting your argument persuasively.
But don’t worry! with some guidance from experts, you’ll be able to write an effective and persuasive essay about Covid-19.
In this blog post, we’ll outline the basics of writing a persuasive essay . We’ll provide clear examples, helpful tips, and essential information for crafting your own persuasive piece on Covid-19.
Read on to get started on your essay.
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Steps to Write a Persuasive Essay About Covid-19
Here are the steps to help you write a persuasive essay on this topic, along with an example essay:
Step 1: Choose a Specific Thesis Statement
Your thesis statement should clearly state your position on a specific aspect of COVID-19. It should be debatable and clear. For example:
Step 2: Research and Gather Information
Collect reliable and up-to-date information from reputable sources to support your thesis statement. This may include statistics, expert opinions, and scientific studies. For instance:
- COVID-19 vaccination effectiveness data
- Information on vaccine mandates in different countries
- Expert statements from health organizations like the WHO or CDC
Step 3: Outline Your Essay
Create a clear and organized outline to structure your essay. A persuasive essay typically follows this structure:
- Background Information
- Body Paragraphs (with supporting evidence)
- Counterarguments (addressing opposing views)
Step 4: Write the Introduction
In the introduction, grab your reader's attention and present your thesis statement. For example:
Step 5: Provide Background Information
Offer context and background information to help your readers understand the issue better. For instance:
Step 6: Develop Body Paragraphs
Each body paragraph should present a single point or piece of evidence that supports your thesis statement. Use clear topic sentences, evidence, and analysis. Here's an example:
Step 7: Address Counterarguments
Acknowledge opposing viewpoints and refute them with strong counterarguments. This demonstrates that you've considered different perspectives. For example:
Step 8: Write the Conclusion
Summarize your main points and restate your thesis statement in the conclusion. End with a strong call to action or thought-provoking statement. For instance:
Step 9: Revise and Proofread
Edit your essay for clarity, coherence, grammar, and spelling errors. Ensure that your argument flows logically.
Step 10: Cite Your Sources
Include proper citations and a bibliography page to give credit to your sources.
Remember to adjust your approach and arguments based on your target audience and the specific angle you want to take in your persuasive essay about COVID-19.
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Examples of Persuasive Essay About Covid19
When writing a persuasive essay about the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s important to consider how you want to present your argument. To help you get started, here are some example essays for you to read:
Check out some more PDF examples below:
Persuasive Essay About Covid-19 Pandemic
Sample Of Persuasive Essay About Covid-19
Persuasive Essay About Covid-19 In The Philippines - Example
If you're in search of a compelling persuasive essay on business, don't miss out on our “ persuasive essay about business ” blog!
Examples of Persuasive Essay About Covid-19 Vaccine
Covid19 vaccines are one of the ways to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but they have been a source of controversy. Different sides argue about the benefits or dangers of the new vaccines. Whatever your point of view is, writing a persuasive essay about it is a good way of organizing your thoughts and persuading others.
A persuasive essay about the Covid-19 vaccine could consider the benefits of getting vaccinated as well as the potential side effects.
Below are some examples of persuasive essays on getting vaccinated for Covid-19.
Covid19 Vaccine Persuasive Essay
Persuasive Essay on Covid Vaccines
Interested in thought-provoking discussions on abortion? Read our persuasive essay about abortion blog to eplore arguments!
Examples of Persuasive Essay About Covid-19 Integration
Covid19 has drastically changed the way people interact in schools, markets, and workplaces. In short, it has affected all aspects of life. However, people have started to learn to live with Covid19.
Writing a persuasive essay about it shouldn't be stressful. Read the sample essay below to get idea for your own essay about Covid19 integration.
Persuasive Essay About Working From Home During Covid19
Searching for the topic of Online Education? Our persuasive essay about online education is a must-read.
Examples of Argumentative Essay About Covid 19
Covid-19 has been an ever-evolving issue, with new developments and discoveries being made on a daily basis.
Writing an argumentative essay about such an issue is both interesting and challenging. It allows you to evaluate different aspects of the pandemic, as well as consider potential solutions.
Here are some examples of argumentative essays on Covid19.
Argumentative Essay About Covid19 Sample
Argumentative Essay About Covid19 With Introduction Body and Conclusion
Looking for a persuasive take on the topic of smoking? You'll find it all related arguments in out Persuasive Essay About Smoking blog!
Examples of Persuasive Speeches About Covid-19
Do you need to prepare a speech about Covid19 and need examples? We have them for you!
Persuasive speeches about Covid-19 can provide the audience with valuable insights on how to best handle the pandemic. They can be used to advocate for specific changes in policies or simply raise awareness about the virus.
Check out some examples of persuasive speeches on Covid-19:
Persuasive Speech About Covid-19 Example
Persuasive Speech About Vaccine For Covid-19
You can also read persuasive essay examples on other topics to master your persuasive techniques!
Tips to Write a Persuasive Essay About Covid-19
Writing a persuasive essay about COVID-19 requires a thoughtful approach to present your arguments effectively.
Here are some tips to help you craft a compelling persuasive essay on this topic:
Choose a Specific Angle
Start by narrowing down your focus. COVID-19 is a broad topic, so selecting a specific aspect or issue related to it will make your essay more persuasive and manageable. For example, you could focus on vaccination, public health measures, the economic impact, or misinformation.
Provide Credible Sources
Support your arguments with credible sources such as scientific studies, government reports, and reputable news outlets. Reliable sources enhance the credibility of your essay.
Use Persuasive Language
Employ persuasive techniques, such as ethos (establishing credibility), pathos (appealing to emotions), and logos (using logic and evidence). Use vivid examples and anecdotes to make your points relatable.
Organize Your Essay
Structure your essay involves creating a persuasive essay outline and establishing a logical flow from one point to the next. Each paragraph should focus on a single point, and transitions between paragraphs should be smooth and logical.
Highlight the benefits of your proposed actions or viewpoints. Explain how your suggestions can improve public health, safety, or well-being. Make it clear why your audience should support your position.
Use Visuals -H3
Incorporate graphs, charts, and statistics when applicable. Visual aids can reinforce your arguments and make complex data more accessible to your readers.
Call to Action
End your essay with a strong call to action. Encourage your readers to take a specific step or consider your viewpoint. Make it clear what you want them to do or think after reading your essay.
Revise and Edit
Proofread your essay for grammar, spelling, and clarity. Make sure your arguments are well-structured and that your writing flows smoothly.
Have someone else read your essay to get feedback. They may offer valuable insights and help you identify areas where your persuasive techniques can be improved.
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Common Topics for a Persuasive Essay on COVID-19
Here are some persuasive essay topics on COVID-19:
- The Importance of Vaccination Mandates for COVID-19 Control
- Balancing Public Health and Personal Freedom During a Pandemic
- The Economic Impact of Lockdowns vs. Public Health Benefits
- The Role of Misinformation in Fueling Vaccine Hesitancy
- Remote Learning vs. In-Person Education: What's Best for Students?
- The Ethics of Vaccine Distribution: Prioritizing Vulnerable Populations
- The Mental Health Crisis Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic
- The Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 on Healthcare Systems
- Global Cooperation vs. Vaccine Nationalism in Fighting the Pandemic
- The Future of Telemedicine: Expanding Healthcare Access Post-COVID-19
In search of more inspiring topics for your next persuasive essay? Our persuasive essay topics blog has plenty of ideas!
To sum it up,
You have read good sample essays and got some helpful tips. You now have the tools you needed to write a persuasive essay about Covid-19. So don't let the doubts stop you, start writing!
If you need professional writing help, don't worry! We've got that for you as well.
MyPerfectWords.com is a professional essay writing service that can help you craft an excellent persuasive essay on Covid-19. Our experienced essay writer will create a well-structured, insightful paper in no time!
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Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any ethical considerations when writing a persuasive essay about covid-19.
Yes, there are ethical considerations when writing a persuasive essay about COVID-19. It's essential to ensure the information is accurate, not contribute to misinformation, and be sensitive to the pandemic's impact on individuals and communities. Additionally, respecting diverse viewpoints and emphasizing public health benefits can promote ethical communication.
What impact does COVID-19 have on society?
The impact of COVID-19 on society is far-reaching. It has led to job and economic losses, an increase in stress and mental health disorders, and changes in education systems. It has also had a negative effect on social interactions, as people have been asked to limit their contact with others.
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Impact of COVID-19 on the social, economic, environmental and energy domains: Lessons learnt from a global pandemic
a School of Information Systems and Modelling, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, University of Technology Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia
I.M. Rizwanul Fattah
Md asraful alam.
b School of Chemical Engineering, Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou 450001, China
A.B.M. Saiful Islam
c Department of Civil and Construction Engineering, College of Engineering, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Dammam 31451, Saudi Arabia
Hwai Chyuan Ong
S.m. ashrafur rahman.
d Biofuel Engine Research Facility, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane, QLD 4000, Australia
e Tarbiat Modares University, P.O.Box: 14115-111, Tehran, Iran
f Science and Math Program, Asian University for Women, Chattogram 4000, Bangladesh
Md. Alhaz Uddin
g Department of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering, Jouf University, Sakaka, Saudi Arabia
COVID-19 has heightened human suffering, undermined the economy, turned the lives of billions of people around the globe upside down, and significantly affected the health, economic, environmental and social domains. This study aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the ecological domain, the energy sector, society and the economy and investigate the global preventive measures taken to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. This analysis unpacks the key responses to COVID-19, the efficacy of current initiatives, and summarises the lessons learnt as an update on the information available to authorities, business and industry. This review found that a 72-hour delay in the collection and disposal of waste from infected households and quarantine facilities is crucial to controlling the spread of the virus. Broad sector by sector plans for socio-economic growth as well as a robust entrepreneurship-friendly economy is needed for the business to be sustainable at the peak of the pandemic. The socio-economic crisis has reshaped investment in energy and affected the energy sector significantly with most investment activity facing disruption due to mobility restrictions. Delays in energy projects are expected to create uncertainty in the years ahead. This report will benefit governments, leaders, energy firms and customers in addressing a pandemic-like situation in the future.
The newly identified infectious coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was discovered in Wuhan and has spread rapidly since December 2019 within China and to other countries around the globe ( Zhou et al., 2020 ; Kabir et al., 2020 ). The source of SARS-CoV-2 is still unclear ( Gorbalenya et al., 2020 ). Fig. 1 demonstrates the initial timeline of the development of SARS-CoV-2 ( Yan et al., 2020 ). The COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant challenges to global safety in public health ( Wang et al., 2020 ). On 31 st January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO), due to growing fears about the rapid spread of coronavirus, announced a global epidemic and on 11 th March, the disease was recognised as a pandemic ( Chowdhury et al., 2021 ). COVID-19 clinical trials indicate that almost all patients admitted to hospital have trouble breathing and pneumonia-like symptoms ( Holshue et al., 2020 ). Clinical diagnosis has identified that COVID-19 (disease caused by SARS-CoV-2) patients have similar indications to other coronavirus affected patients, e.g. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) ( Wang and Su, 2020 ). The initial indication of a COVID-19 infection is coughing, fever, and short breath, and in the later stages, it can damage the kidney, cause pneumonia, and unexpected death ( Mofijur et al., 2020 ). The vulnerability of the elderly (>80 years of age) is high, with a fatality rate of ~22% of cases infected by COVID-19 ( Abdullah et al., 2020 ). The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has reached over 33 million as of 29 th September 2020, with more than 213 countries and regions affected by the pandemic ( Worldometer, 2020 ). Over 1,003,569 people have already passed away ( Worldometer, 2020 ) due to COVID-19. Most countries are currently trying to combat the virus spread by screening for COVID-19 in large numbers and maintaining social distancing policies with an emphasis on the health of human beings.
The initial stage development timeline for COVID-19 ( Yan et al., 2020 ).
Fig. 2 shows infections and replication cycle of the coronavirus. In extreme cases, the lungs are the most severely damaged organ of a SARS-CoV-2 infected person (host). The alveoli are porous cup-formed small cavities located in the structure of the lungs where the gas exchange of the breathing process take place. The most common cells on the alveoli are the type II cells.
Infections and replication cycle of the coronavirus ( Acter et al., 2020 ).
It has been reported that travel restrictions play a significant role in controlling the initial spread of COVID-19 ( Chinazzi et al., 2020 ; Aldila et al., 2020 ; Beck and Hensher, 2020 ; Bruinen de Bruin et al., 2020 ; de Haas et al., 2020 ). It has been reported that staying at home is most useful in controlling both the initial and last phase of infectious diseases ( de Haas et al., 2020 ; Cohen, 2020 , Pirouz et al., 2020 ). However, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, quarantines, entry bans, as well as other limitations have been implemented for citizens in or recent travellers to several countries in the most affected areas ( Sohrabi et al., 2020 ). Also, most of the industries were shutdown to lower mobility. A potential benefit of these measures is the reduction of pollution by the industrial and transportation sector, improving urban sustainability ( Jiang et al., 2021 ). Fig. 3 shows the global responses to lower the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. There have been negative economic and social implications due to restrictions and decreased travel readiness worldwide ( Leal Filho et al., 2020 ). A fall in the volume of business activity and international events and an increase in online measures could have a long-term impact. The status of global transport and air activity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is shown in Fig. 4 ( International Energy Agency (IEA), 2020 ). By March 2020, the average global road haulage activity in regions with lockdowns had declined to almost 50% of the 2019 standard. Air travel has almost completely stopped in certain regions with aviation activity decreasing by over 90% in some European countries. Air activity in China recovered slightly from a low in late February, with lockdown measures somewhat eased. Nevertheless, as lockdowns spread, by the end of Q1 2020, global aviation activity decreased by a staggering 60%.
Initial preventive measures to lower the COVID-19 outbreak ( Bruinen de Bruin et al., 2020 ).
Global transport and aviation activity in the first quarter of the year 2020 ( International Energy Agency (IEA), 2020 ).
The spread of COVID-19 continues to threaten the public health situation severely ( Chinazzi et al., 2020 ) and greatly affect the global economy. Labour displacement, business closures and stock crashes are just some of the impacts of this global lockdown during the pandemic. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the effect of COVID-19 will result in a worldwide economic decline in 2020 and a decline in the economic growth to 3% ( International Monetary Fund (IMF) ). COVID-19 has a detrimental impact on economic growth due to two primary factors. In the beginning, the exponential growth of the global epidemic directly contributed to considerable confusion about instability in the financial and capital markets. Secondly, countries have strictly regulated human movement and transport to monitor the growth of the epidemic and significantly reduced economic activity, putting pressure on both consumer and productive economic activity.
Since the 1970s, the link between economic growth and pollution has been an important global concern. The assessment of energy and financial efficiency is usually connected to environmental pollution research. Green practices at a national level, the inclusion of renewable energy, regulatory pressure and the sustainable use of natural resources are associated with environmental sustainability ( Khan et al., 2020 ). One study has shown that environmental pollution increases with economic growth and vice versa ( Cai et al., 2020 ). The strict control over movement and business activity due to COVID-19 has led to an economic downturn, which is in turn, expected to reduce environmental pollution. This paper systematically assesses how the novel coronavirus has had a global effect on society, the energy sector and the environment. This study presents data compiled from the literature, news sources and reports (from February 2020 to July 2020) on the management steps implemented across the globe to control and reduce the impact of COVID-19. The study will offer guidelines for nations to assess the overall impact of COVID-19 in their countries.
2. Impact of COVID-19 on the environmental domain
2.1. waste generation.
The generation of different types of waste indirectly creates a number of environmental concerns ( Schanes et al., 2018 ). The home isolation and pop-up confinement services in countries that have experienced major impacts of COVID-19 are standard practise, as hospitals are given priority to the most serious cases. In some countries, hotels are being used to isolate travellers for at least two weeks on entry. In several countries, such quarantine measures have resulted in consumers increasing their domestic online shopping activity that has increased domestic waste. In addition, food bought online is packaged, so inorganic waste has also increased. Medical waste has also increased. For instance, Wuhan hospitals produced an average of 240 metric tonnes of medical waste during the outbreak compared to their previous average of fewer than 50 tonnes ( Zambrano-Monserrate et al., 2020 ). This unusual situation poses new and major obstacles in the implementation of waste collection services, thus creating a new challenge for waste collection and recycling groups. With the global adaptation to exponential behavioural and social shifts in the face of COVID-19 challenges, municipal services such as waste collection and management need to alter their operations to play an important role in reducing the spread of infectious diseases.
2.1.1. Lifespan of COVID-19 on different waste media
SARS-CoV-2′s transmission activity has major repercussions for waste services. SARS-CoV-2 attacks host cells with ACE2 proteins directly. ACE2 is a cell membrane-associated enzyme in the lungs, heart and kidneys. When all the resources in the host cell are infected and depleted, the viruses leave the cell in the so-called shedding cycle ( Nghiem et al., 2020 ). Clinical and virological evidence suggests that the elimination of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is most relevant early on, right before and within a couple of days of the onset of the illness ( AEMO, 2020 ). Fomites are known as major vectors for the replication of other infectious viruses during the outbreak ( Park et al., 2015 ). Evidence from SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses show that they remain effective for up to a few days in the atmosphere and on a variety of surfaces ( Fig. 5 ). The survival time of SARS-CoV-2 on hard and plastic surfaces is up to three days indicating that waste materials from COVID-19 patients may contain coronavirus and be a source of infection spread ( Chin et al., 2020 ). During the early stages of this epidemic, updated waste disposal methods to tackle COVID-19 were not implemented on the broader community. The concept of clinical waste essentially also applies to waste from contaminated homes and quarantine facilities. Throughout this pandemic, huge volumes of domestic and hospital waste, particularly plastic waste, has been generated. This has already impeded current efforts to reduce plastic waste and decrease its disposal in the environment. More effort should be made to find alternatives to heavily used plastics.
The lifespan of SARS-CoV-2 on different media ( Chin et al., 2020 ; van Doremalen et al.; 2020 ; Ye et al., 2016 )
2.1.2. Waste recycling service
COVID-19 has already had significant effects on waste recycling. Initially, as the outbreak spread and lockdowns were implemented in several countries, both public authorities and municipal waste management officials had to adjust to the situation quickly. Waste disposal has also been a major environmental problem for all technologically advanced nations, as no clear information was available about the retention time of SARS-CoV-2 ( Liu et al., 2020 ). Recycling is a growing and efficient means of pollution control, saving energy and conserving natural resources ( Ma et al., 2019 ). Recycling projects in various cities have been put on hold due to the pandemic, with officials worried about the possibility of COVID-19 spreading to recycling centres. Waste management has been limited in affected European countries. For example, Italy prohibited the sorting of waste by infected citizens. Extensive waste management during the pandemic is incredibly difficult because of the scattered nature of the cases and the individuals affected. The value of implementing best management practises for waste handling and hygiene to minimise employee exposure to potentially hazardous waste, should be highlighted at this time. Considering the possible role of the environment in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 ( Qu et al., 2020 ), the processing of both household and quarantine facility waste is a crucial point of control. Association of Cities and Regions for sustainable Resource management (ACR+) has reported on the provision of separate collection services to COVID-19 contaminated households and quarantine facilities to protect frontline waste workers in Europe, as shown in Fig. 6 . ACR+ also suggests a 72-hour delay in waste disposal (the possible lifespan of COVID-19 in the environment) ( Nghiem et al., 2020 ). Moreover, the collected waste should be immediately transported to waste incinerators or sites without segregation.
Recommended waste management during COVID-19 ( ACR+ 2020 ).
2.2. NO 2 emissions
Without the global pandemic, we had naively anticipated that in 2020 global emissions would rise by around 1% on a five-year basis. Instead, the sharp decline in economic activity in response to the current crisis will most probably lead to a modest drop in global greenhouse emissions. The European Space Agency (ESA), with its head office in Paris, France, is an intergovernmental body made up of 22 European countries committed to exploring the international space. To monitor air pollution in the atmosphere, the ESA uses the Copernicus Sentinel-5P Satellite. In addition to the compound contents measurement, the Copernicus Sentinel-5P troposphere monitor (TROPOMI) and other specified precision equipment measure ozone content, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane. Table 1 shows NO 2 emissions data acquisition by ESA using Sentinel-5P across different regions of Europe ( Financial Times, 2020 ).
NO 2 emissions data acquisition by ESA using Sentinel-5P across different regions of Europe ( Financial Times, 2020 ).
Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, gas and other fuels, is the source of atmospheric nitrogen dioxide ( Munawer, 2018 ). The bulk of the NO 2 in cities, however, comes from emissions from motor vehicles (approximately 80%). Other NO 2 sources include petroleum and metal refining, coal-fired electricity, other manufacturing and food processing industries. Some NO 2 is naturally produced by lightning in the atmosphere and from the soil, water, and plants, which, taken together, constitutes not even 1% of the total NO 2 found in the air of our localities. Due to pollution variations as well as changes in weather conditions, the levels of the NO 2 in our atmosphere differ widely every day. Anthropogenic pollution is estimated to contain around 53 million tonnes of NO 2 annually. Nitrogen dioxide, together with nitrogen oxide (NO), are considered the major components of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) ( M Palash et al., 2013 ; Fattah et al., 2013 ). NO, and NO 2 are susceptible to other chemicals and form acid rain that is toxic to the environment ( Mofijur et al., 2013 ; Ashraful et al., 2014 ), WHO lists NO 2 as one of the six typical air contaminants in the atmosphere. For this reason, the amount of NO 2 in the atmosphere is used as a precise measure for determining whether the COVID-19 outbreak affects environmental pollution.
NO 2 is an irritating reddish-brown gas with an unpleasant smell, and when cooled or compressed, it becomes a yellowish-brown liquid ( Wang and Su, 2020 ). NO 2 inflames the lung linings and can decrease lung infection immunity. High levels of NO 2 in the air we breathe can corrode our body's lung tissues . Nitrogen dioxide is a problematic air pollutant because it leads to brown photochemical smog formation, which can have significant impacts on human health ( Huang et al., 2020 ). Brief exposure to high concentrations of NO 2 can lead to respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, bronchitis, flu, etc., and aggravate respiratory illnesses such as asthma. Increased NO 2 levels can have major effects on individuals with asthma, sometimes leading to frequent and intense attacks ( Munawer, 2018 ). Asthmatic children and older individuals with cardiac illness are most vulnerable in this regard. However, its main drawback is that it produces two of the most harmful air pollutants, ozone and airborne particles. Ozone gas affects our lungs and the crops we eat.
2.2.1. NO₂ emissions across different countries
According to the ESA ( European Space Agency (ESA), 2020 ), average levels of NO 2 declined by 40% between 13 th March 2020 to 13 th April 2020. The reduction was 55% compared to the same period in 2019. Fig. 7 compares the 2019-2020 NO 2 concentration ( European Space Agency (ESA), 2020 ). The displayed satellite image was captured with the TROPOMI by ESA satellite Sentinel-5P. The percentage reductions in average NO 2 emissions in European countries during the COVID-19 outbreak from 1 st April to 30 th April 2020 can be seen in Fig. 8 ( Myllyvirta, 2020 ). Portugal, Spain, Norway, Croatia, France, Italy, and Finland are the countries that experienced the largest decrease in NO 2 levels, with 58%, 48%, 47%, 43% and 41%, respectively.
Comparison of the NO 2 concentration between 2019 and 2020 in Europe ( European Space Agency (ESA), 2020 ).
Changes in average NO 2 emission in different countries ( Myllyvirta, 2020 ).
The average 10-day animation of NO 2 emissions throughout Europe (from 1 st January to 11 th March 2020), demonstrated the environmental impact of Italy's economic downturn, see Fig. 9 ( European Space Agency (ESA), 2020 ). In the recent four weeks (Last week of February 2020 to the third week of March 2020) the average concentration of NO 2 in Milan, Italy, has been at least 24% less than the previous four weeks. In the week of 16 – 22 March, the average concentration was 21% lower than in 2019 for the same week. Over the last four weeks of January 2020, NO 2 emissions in Bergamo city has been gradually declining. During the week of 16–22 March, the average concentration was 47% less than in 2019. In Rome, NO 2 rates were 26–35% lower than average in the last four weeks (third week of January 2020 to the third week of February 2020) than they were during the same week of 2019 ( Atmosphere Monitoring Service, 2020 ).
Changes of NO 2 emission (a) over entire Italy (b) capital city (c) other cities ( European Space Agency (ESA), 2020 ; Atmosphere Monitoring Service, 2020 ).
Fig. 10 shows a comparison of NO 2 volumes in Spain in March 2019 and 2020. As per ( European Space Agency (ESA), 2020 ), Spain's NO 2 pollutants decreased by up to 20–30% due to lockdown, particularly across big cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville. ESA Sentinel-5P captured the satellite image using TROPOMI. Satellite images of the 10 days between 14 th and 25 th March 2020 show that NO 2 tropospheric concentration in the areas of Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Murcia ranges from 0–90 mg/m 3 . The NO 2 tropospheric concentration for Seville is almost 0 mg/m 3 for the same time. For March 2019, the average NO 2 tropospheric concentration for the Madrid area was between 90 and 160 mg/m 3 . At the same time, the range of NO 2 tropospheric concentration for Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville area was between 90–140 mg/m 3 , 90-130 mg/m 3 , and 30–50 mg/m 3 , respectively.
Comparison between before and after lockdown NO 2 emissions in Spain ( European Space Agency (ESA), 2020 ).
Fig. 11 shows the reduction in the amount of NO 2 emissions in France in March 2019 and 2020 ( European Space Agency (ESA), 2020 ). In France, levels of NO 2 have been reduced by 20% to 30%. The ESA Sentinel-5P satellite image was captured with the TROPOMI. In Paris and other major cities, the emission levels of NO 2 considerably lowered due to lockdown. The three major areas of France where NO 2 tropospheric concentration was significant are Paris, Lyon, Marseille and their surroundings. Satellite images of the ten days between 14 th and 25 th March 2020 show that NO 2 tropospheric concentration of the Paris, Lyon, Marseille areas ranges 30–90 mg/m 3 , 20–40 mg/m 3 and 40–80 mg/m 3 , respectively. For March 2019, the average NO 2 tropospheric concentration for the same areas was reported as 100–160 mg/m 3 , 30–60 mg/m 3, and 90–140 mg/m 3 , respectively.
Comparison of NO 2 emissions in France before and after lockdown ( European Space Agency (ESA), 2020 ).
Various industries across the UK have been affected by COVID-19, which has influenced air contamination. As shown in Fig. 12 , there were notable drops in the country's NO 2 emissions on the first day of quarantine ( Khoo, 2020 ). Edinburgh showed the most significant reduction. The average NO 2 emissions on 26 th March 2020, were 28 μg/m 3 while on the same day of 2019, this was 74 μg/m 3 ( Khoo, 2020 ). The second biggest reduction was observed in London Westminster where emissions reduced from 58 µg/m 3 to 30 µg/m 3 . Not all cities have seen such a significant decrease, with daily air pollution reducing by 7 μg/m 3 compared to the previous year in Manchester Piccadilly, for example ( Statista, 2020 ).
(a) Changes in NO 2 emissions in the UK during lockdown ( European Space Agency (ESA), 2020 ); (b) comparison of NO 2 emissions in 2019 and 2020 ( Khoo, 2020 ).
2.3. PM emission
The term particulate matter, referred to as PM, is used to identify tiny airborne particles. PM forms in the atmosphere when pollutants chemically react with each other. Particles include pollution, dirt, soot, smoke, and droplets. Pollutants emitted from vehicles, factories, building sites, tilled areas, unpaved roads and the burning of fossil fuels also contribute to PM in the air ( Baensch-Baltruschat et al., 2020 ). Grilling food (by burning leaves or gas grills), smoking cigarettes, and burning wood on a fireplace or stove also contribute to PM. The aerodynamic diameter is considered a simple way to describe PM's particle size as these particles occur in various shapes and densities. Particulates are usually divided into two categories, namely, PM 10 that are inhalable particles with a diameter of 10 μm or less and PM 2.5 which are fine inhalable particle with a diameter of 2.5 μm or less. PM 2.5 exposure causes relatively severe health problems such as non-fatal heart attacks, heartbeat irregularity, increased asthma, reduced lung function, heightened respiratory symptoms, and premature death ( Weitekamp et al., 2020 ).
PM 2.5 also poses a threat to the environment, including lower visibility (haze) in many parts of the globe. Particulates can be transported long distances then settle on the ground or in water sources. In these contexts and as a function of the chemical composition, PM 2.5 may cause acidity in lakes and stream water, alter the nutrient balance in coastal waters and basins, deplete soil nutrients and damage crops on farms, affect the biodiversity in the ecosystem, and contribute to acid rain. This settling of PM, together with acid rain, can also stain and destroy stones and other materials such as statues and monuments, which include valuable cultural artefacts ( Awad et al., 2020 ).
2.3.1. PM emission in different countries
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, PM emission in most countries has been reduced ( Chatterjee et al., 2020 ; Ghahremanloo et al., 2021 ; Gualtieri et al., 2020 ; Sharifi and Khavarian-Garmsir, 2020 ; Srivastava, 2020 ). Fig. 13 shows the impact of COVID19 on PM emission in a number of some countries around the world ( Myllyvirta, 2020 ). The largest reductions in PM pollution took place in Portugal, with 55%, followed by Norway, Sweden, and Poland with reductions of 32%, 30%, and 28%, respectively. Spain, Poland, and Finland recorded PM emission reductions of 19%, 17% and 16%, respectively. Both Romania and Croatia recorded no changes in PM level, with Switzerland and Hungary recording about a 3% increase in PM emission.
Reduction of PM emission in different countries ( Myllyvirta, 2020 ).
PM emissions have been significantly reduced during the epidemic in most regions of Italy. Fig. 14 illustrates the changes in COVID-19 containment emissions before and after a lockdown in major cities in Italy. According to a recent study by Sicard et al. ( Sicard et al., 2020 ), lockdown interventions have had a greater effect on PM emission. They found that confinement measures reduce PM 10 emissions in all major cities by “around 30% to 53%” and “around 35% to 56%”.
Comparison of PM emission in Italy (a) PM 2.5 emission (b) Changes of PM 2.5 emission (c) PM 10 emission (d) Changes of PM 10 emission ( Sicard et al., 2020 ).
2.4. Noise emission
Noise is characterised as an undesirable sound that may be produced from different activities, e.g. transit by engine vehicles and high volume music. Noise can cause health problems and alter the natural condition of ecosystems. It is among the most significant sources of disruption in people and the environment ( Zambrano-Monserrate and Ruano, 2019 ). The European Environment Agency (EEA) states that traffic noise is a serious environmental problem that negatively affects the health and security of millions of citizens in Europe. The consequences of long-term exposure to noise include sleep disorders, adverse effects on the heart and metabolic systems, and cognitive impairment in children. The EEA estimates that noise pollution contributes to 48,000 new cases of heart disease and 12,000 early deaths per year. They also reported chronic high irritation for 22 million people and a chronic high level of sleep disorder for 6.5 million people ( Lillywhite, 2020 ).
Most governments have imposed quarantine measures that require people to spend much more time at home. This has considerably reduced the use of private and public transport. Commercial activities have almost completely stopped. In most cities in the world, these changes have caused a significant decline in noise levels. This was followed by a significant decline in pollution from contaminants and greenhouse gas emissions. Noise pollution from sources like road, rail or air transport has been linked to economic activity. Consequently, we anticipate that the levels of transport noise will decrease significantly due to the decreased demand for mobility in the short term ( Ro, 2020 ).
For example, it was obvious that environmental noise in Italy was reduced after 8 th March 2020 (the lockdown start date) due to a halt in commercial and recreational activities. A seismograph facility in Lombardy city in Italy that was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic indicated how the quarantine measures reduce both traffic and noise emissions. The comparison of the 24-hour seismic noise data before and after the lockdown period indicates a considerable drop in environmental noise in Italy ( Bressan, 2020 ).
3. Impact of COVID-19 on the socio-economic domain
COVID-19 has created a global health crisis where countless people are dying, human suffering is spreading, and people's lives are being upended ( Nicola et al., 2020 ). It is not only just a health crisis but also a social and economic crisis, both of which are fundamental to sustainable development ( Pirouz et al., 2020 ). On 11 th March 2020, when WHO declared a global pandemic, 118,000 reported cases spanning 114 countries with over 4,000 fatalities had been reported. It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000, and just four days for the third ( United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 2020 ). This has overwhelmed the health systems of even the richest countries with doctors being forced to make the painful decision of who lives and who dies. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the world into uncertainty and countries do not have a clear exit strategy in the absence of a vaccine. This pandemic has affected all segments of society. However, it is particularly damaging to vulnerable social groups, including people living in poverty, older persons, persons with disabilities, youths, indigenous people and ethnic minorities. People with no home or shelter such as refugees, migrants, or displaced persons will suffer disproportionately, both during the pandemic and in its aftermath. This might occur in multiple ways, such as experiencing limited movement, fewer employment opportunities, increased xenophobia, etc. The social crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic may also increase inequality, discrimination and medium and long-term unemployment if not properly addressed by appropriate policies.
The protection measures taken to save lives are severely affecting economies all over the world. As discussed previously, the key protection measure adopted universally is the lockdown, which has forced people to work from home wherever possible. Workplace closures have disrupted supply chains and lowered productivity. In many instances, governments have closed borders to contain the spread. Other measures such as travel bans and the prohibition of sporting events and other mass gatherings are also in place. In addition, measures such as discouraging the use of public transport and public spaces, for example, restaurants, shopping centres and public attractions are also in place in many parts of the world. The situation is particularly dire in hospitality-related sectors and the global travel industry, including airlines, cruise companies, casinos and hotels which are facing a reduction in business activity of more than 90% ( Fernandes, 2020 ). The businesses that rely on social interactions like entertainment and tourism are suffering severely, and millions of people have lost their jobs. Layoffs, declines in personal income, and heightened uncertainty have made people spend less, triggering further business closures and job losses ( Ghosh, 2020 ).
A key performance indicator of economic health is Gross Domestic Product (GDP), typically calculated on a quarterly or annual basis. IMF provides a GDP growth estimate per quarter based on global economic developments during the near and medium-term. According to its estimate, the global economy is projected to contract sharply by 3% in 2020, which is much worse than the 2008 global financial crisis ( International Monetary Fund (IMF), 2020 ). The growth forecast was marked down by 6% in the April 2020 World Economic Outlook (WEO) compared to that of the October 2019 WEO and January 2020 WEO. Most economies in the advanced economy group are expected to contract in 2020, including the US, Japan, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain by 5.9%, 5.4%, 6.5%, 7.0%, 7.2%, 9.1%, and 8.0% respectively. Fig. 15 a shows the effect of COVID-19 on the GDP of different countries around the globe. On the other hand, economies of emerging market and developing economies, excluding China, are projected to contract by only 1.0% in 2020. The economic recovery in 2021 will depend on the gradual rolling back of containment efforts in the latter part of 2020 that will restore consumer and investor confidence. According to the April 2020 WEO, the level of GDP at the end of 2021 in both advanced and emerging market and developing economies is expected to remain below the pre-virus baseline (January 2020 WEO Update), as shown in Fig. 15 b.
(a) Quarterly World GDP. 2019:Q1 =100, dashed line indicates estimates from January 2020 WEO; (b) GDP fall due to lockdown in selected countries.
A particular example of a country hardest hit by COVID-19 is Italy. During the early days of March, the Italian government imposed quarantine orders in major cities that locked down more than seventeen million people ( Andrews, 2020 ). The mobility index data by Google for Italy shows there has been a significant reduction in mobility (and therefore economic activity) across various facets of life. The reported decline of mobility in retail and recreation, grocery and pharmacy, transit stations and workplaces were 35%, 11%, 45% and 34% respectively ( Rubino, 2020 ). The Italian economy suffered great financial damage from the pandemic. The tourism, and hospitality sectors were among those most severely affected by foreign countries prohibiting travel to and from Italy, and by the government's national lockdowns in early March ( Brunton, 2020 ). A March 2020 study in Italy showed that about 99% of the companies in the housing and utility sector said the epidemic had affected their industry. In addition, transport and storage was the second most affected sector. Around 83% of companies operating in this sector said that their activities had been affected by the coronavirus ( Statista, 2020 ) pandemic. In April 2020, Italian Minister Roberto Gualtieri estimated a 6% reduction in the GDP for the year 2020 ( Bertacche et al., 2020 ). The government of Italy stopped all unnecessary companies, industries and economic activities on 21 st March 2020. Therefore The Economist estimates a 7% fall in GDP in 2020 ( Horowitz, 2020 ). The Economist predicted that the Italian debt-to-GDP ratio would grow from 130% to 180% by the end of 2020 ( Brunton, 2020 ) and it is also assumed that Italy will have difficulty repaying its debt ( Bertacche et al., 2020 ).
4. Impact of COVID-19 on the energy domain
COVID-19 has not only impacted health, society and the economy but it has also had a strong impact on the energy sector ( Chakraborty and Maity, 2020 ; Abu-Rayash and Dincer, 2020 ). World energy demand fell by 3.8% in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020 compared with Q1 2019. In Q1 of 2020, the global coal market was heavily impacted by both weather conditions and the downturn in economic activity resulting in an almost 8% fall compared to Q1 2019. The fall was primarily in the electricity sector as a result of substantial declines in demand (-2.5%) and competitive advantages from predominantly low-cost natural gas. The market for global oil has plummeted by almost 5%. Travel bans, border closures, and changes in work routines significantly decreased the demand for the use of personal vehicles and air transport. Thus rising global economic activity slowed down the use of fuel for transportation ( Madurai Elavarasan et al., 2020 ). In Q1 2020, the output from nuclear energy plants decreased worldwide, especially in Europe and the US, as they adjusted for lower levels of demand. Demand for natural gas dropped significantly, by approximately 2% in Q1 2020, with the biggest declines in China, Europe, and the United States. In the Q1 2020, the need for renewable energy grew by around 1.5%, driven in recent years by the increasing output of new wind and solar plants. Renewable energy sources substantially increased in the electricity generation mix, with record hourly renewable energy shares in Belgium, Italy, Germany, Hungary, and East America. The share of renewable energy sources in the electricity generation mix has increased. Table 2 shows the effect of COVID-19 outbreak on the energy demand around the world.
Impact of COVID-19 on global energy sector ( AEMO, 2020 ; CIS Editorial, 2020 ; Eurelectric, 2020 ; Livemint, 2020 ; Renewable Energy World, 2020 ; S&P Global, 2020 ; Madurai Elavarasan et al., 2020 ).
Different areas have implemented lockdown of various duration. Therefore, regional energy demand depends on when lockdowns were introduced and how lockdowns influence demand in each country. In Korea and Japan, the average impact on demand is reduced to less than 10%, with lower restrictions. In China, where the first COVID-19 confinement measures were introduced, not all regions faced equally stringent constraints. Nevertheless, virus control initiatives have resulted in a decline of up to 15% in weekly energy demand across China. In Europe, moderate to complete lockdowns were more radical. On average, a 17% reduction in weekly demand was experienced during temporary confinement periods. India's complete lockdown has cut energy requirements by approximately 30%, which indicates yearly energy needs are lowered by 0.6% for each incremental lockdown week ( International Energy Agency (IEA) 2020 ).
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted an annual average decline in oil production of 9% in 2020, reflecting a return to 2012 levels. Broadly, as electricity demand has decreased by about 5% throughout the year, coal production may fall by 8%, and the output of coal-fired electricity generation could fall by more than 10%. During the entire year, gas demand may fall far beyond Q1 2020 due to a downward trend in power and industrial applications. Nuclear energy demand will also decrease in response to reduced electricity demand. The demand for renewable energies should grow due to low production costs and the choice of access to many power systems. Khan et al. (2020) reported that international trade is significantly and positively dependent on renewable energy. In addition, sustainable growth can be facilitated through the consumption of renewable energy which improves the environment, enhances national image globally and opens up international trade opportunities with environmentally friendly countries ( Khan et al., 2021 ). As such, policies that promote renewables can result in economic prosperity, create a better environment as well as meet critical goals for sustainable development ( Khan et al., 2020 ).
5. Preventive measures to control COVID-19 outbreak
COVID-19 is a major crisis needing an international response. Governments will ensure reliable information is provided to assist the public in combating this pandemic. Community health and infection control measures are urgently needed to reduce the damage done by COVID-19 and minimise the overall spread of the virus. Self-defence techniques include robust overall personal hygiene, face washing, refraining from touching the eyes, nose or mouth, maintaining physical distance and avoiding travel. In addition, different countries have already taken preventive measures, including the implementation of social distancing, medicine, forestation and a worldwide ban on wildlife trade. A significant aim of the community health system is to avoid SARS-CoV-2 transmission by limiting large gatherings. COVID-19 is transmitted by direct communication from individual to individual. Therefore, the key preventive technique is to limit mass gatherings. Table 3 shows the impact of lockdown measures on the recovery rate of COVID-19 infections. The baseline data for this table is the median value, for the corresponding day of the week, during the 5-week period 3 rd January to 6 th February 2020.
Mobility index report of different countries ( Ghosh, 2020 ; Johns Hopkins University (JHU), 2020 ; Worldometer, 2020 ).
As of today, no COVID-19 vaccine is available. Worldwide scientists are racing against time to develop the COVID-19 vaccine, and WHO is now monitoring more than 140 vaccine candidates. As of 29 th September 2020, about 122 candidates have been pre-clinically checked, i.e. determining whether an immune response is caused when administering the vaccine to animals ( Biorender, 2020 ). About 45 candidates are in stage I where tests on a small number of people are conducted to decide whether it is effective ( Biorender, 2020 ). About 29 candidates are in Phase II where hundreds of people are tested to assess additional health issues and doses ( Biorender, 2020 ). Only 14 candidates are currently in Phase III, where thousands of participants are taking a vaccine to assess any final safety concerns, especially with regard to side effects ( Biorender, 2020 ). 3 candidates are in Phase IV, where long-term effects of the vaccines on a larger population is observed ( Biorender, 2020 ). The first generation of COVID-19 vaccines is expected to gain approval by the end of 2020 or in early 2021 ( Peiris and Leung, 2020 ). It is anticipated that these vaccines will provide immunity to the population. These vaccines can also reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and lead to a resumption of a pre-COVID-19 normal. Table 4 shows the list of vaccines that have been passed in the pre-clinical stage. In addition, according to the COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutics tracker, there are 398 therapeutic drugs in development. Of these, 83 are in the pre-clinical phase, 100 in Phase I, 224 in Phase II, 119 in Phase III and 46 in Phase IV ( Biorender, 2020 ).
List of vaccines that have passed the pre-clinical stage ( Biorender, 2020 ).
In addition to the above, forestation and a worldwide ban on wildlife trade can also play a significant role in reducing the spread of different viruses. More than 30% of the ground area is covered with forests. The imminent increase in population contributes to deforestation in agriculture or grazing for food, industries and property. The rise in ambient temperature, sea levels and extreme weather events affects not only the land and environment but also public health ( Ruscio et al., 2015 ; Arora and Mishra, 2020 ). Huge investment has been made into treatments, rehabilitation and medications to avoid the impact of this epidemic. However, it is important to focus on basic measures, e.g. forestation and wildlife protection. The COVID-19 infection was initially spread from the Seafood Market, Wuhan, China. Therefore, China temporarily banned wildlife markets in which animals are kept alive in small cages. It has been reported that 60% of transmittable diseases are animal-borne, 70% of which are estimated to have been borne by wild animals ( Chakraborty and Maity, 2020 ). Deforestation is also related to various kinds of diseases caused by birds, bats, etc. ( Afelt et al., 2018 ). For example, COVID-19 is a bat-borne disease that is transmitted to humans. Therefore, several scientists have advised various countries to ban wildlife trade indefinitely so that humans can be protected from new viruses and global pandemics like COVID-19.
In this article, comprehensive analyses of energy, environmental pollution, and socio-economic impacts in the context of health emergency events and the global responses to mitigate the effects of these events have been provided. COVID-19 is a worldwide pandemic that puts a stop to economic activity and poses a severe risk to overall wellbeing. The global socio-economic impact of COVID-19 includes higher unemployment and poverty rates, lower oil prices, altered education sectors, changes in the nature of work, lower GDPs and heightened risks to health care workers. Thus, social preparedness, as a collaboration between leaders, health care workers and researchers to foster meaningful partnerships and devise strategies to achieve socio-economic prosperity, is required to tackle future pandemic-like situations. The impact on the energy sector includes increased residential energy demand due to a reduction in mobility and a change in the nature of work. Lockdowns across the globe have restricted movement and have placed people primarily at home, which has, in turn, decreased industrial and commercial energy demand as well as waste generation. This reduction in demand has resulted in substantial decreases in NO 2, PM, and environmental noise emissions and as a consequence, a significant reduction in environmental pollution. Sustainable urban management that takes into account the positive benefits of ecological balance is vital to the decrease of viral infections and other diseases. Policies that promote sustainable development, ensuring cities can enforce recommended measures like social distancing and self-isolation will bring an overall benefit very quickly. The first generation of COVID-19 vaccines is expected to gain approval by the end of 2020 or in early 2021, which will provide immunity to the population. It is necessary to establish preventive epidemiological models to detect the occurrence of viruses like COVID-19 in advance. In addition, governments, policymakers, and stakeholders around the world need to take necessary steps, such as ensuring healthcare services for all citizens, supporting those who are working in frontline services and suffering significant financial impacts, ensuring social distancing, and focussing on building a sustainable future. It is also recommended that more investment is required in research and development to overcome this pandemic and prevent any similar crisis in the future.
Declaration of Competing Interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.
Editor: Dr. Syed Abdul Rehman Khan
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Special Issue: COVID-19
This essay was published as part of a Special Issue on Misinformation and COVID-19, guest-edited by Dr. Meghan McGinty (Director of Emergency Management, NYC Health + Hospitals) and Nat Gyenes (Director, Meedan Digital Health Lab).
The causes and consequences of COVID-19 misperceptions: Understanding the role of news and social media
We investigate the relationship between media consumption, misinformation, and important attitudes and behaviours during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We find that comparatively more misinformation circulates on Twitter, while news media tends to reinforce public health recommendations like social distancing. We find that exposure to social media is associated with misperceptions regarding basic facts about COVID-19 while the inverse is true for news media. These misperceptions are in turn associated with lower compliance with social distancing measures. We thus draw a clear link from misinformation circulating on social media, notably Twitter, to behaviours and attitudes that potentially magnify the scale and lethality of COVID-19.
Department of Political Science, McGill University, Canada
Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto, Canada
Max Bell School of Public Policy, McGill University, Canada
School of Computer Science, McGill University, Canada
Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, McGill University, Canada
Computer Science Program, McGill University, Canada
- How prevalent is misinformation surrounding COVID-19 on Twitter, and how does this compare to Canadian news media?
- Does the type of media one is exposed to influence social distancing behaviours and beliefs about COVID-19?
- Is there a link between COVID-19 misinformation and perceptions of the pandemic’s severity and compliance with social distancing recommendations?
- We evaluate the presence of misinformation and public health recommendations regarding COVID-19 in a massive corpus of tweets as well as all articles published on nineteen Canadian news sites. Using these data, we show that preventative measures are more encouraged and covered on traditional news media, while misinformation appears more frequently on Twitter.
- To evaluate the impact of this greater level of misinformation, we conducted a nationally representative survey that included questions about common misperceptions regarding COVID-19, risk perceptions, social distancing compliance, and exposure to traditional news and social media. We find that being exposed to news media is associated with fewer misperceptions and more social distancing compliance while conversely, social media exposure is associated with more misperceptions and less social distancing compliance.
- Misperceptions regarding the virus are in turn associated with less compliance with social distancing measures, even when controlling for a broad range of other attitudes and characteristics.
- Association between social media exposure and social distancing non-compliance is eliminated when accounting for effect of misperceptions, providing evidence that social media is associated with non-compliance through increasing misperceptions about the virus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by a so-called “infodemic”—a global spread of misinformation that poses a serious problem for public health. Infodemics are concerning because the spread of false or misleading information has the capacity to change transmission patterns (Kim et al., 2019) and consequently the scale and lethality of a pandemic. This information can be shared by any media, but there is reason to be particularly concerned about the role that social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, play in incidentally boosting misperceptions. These platforms are increasingly relied upon as primary sources of news (Mitchell et al., 2016) and misinformation has been heavily documented on them (Garrett, 2019; Vicario et al., 2016). Scholars have found medical and health misinformation on the platforms, including that related to vaccines (Radzikowski et al., 2016) and other virus epidemics such as Ebola (Fung et al., 2016) and Zika (Sharma et al., 2017).
However, misinformation content typically makes up a low percentage of overall discussion of a topic (e.g. Fung et al., 2016) and mere exposure to misinformation does not guarantee belief in that misinformation. More research is thus needed to understand the extent and consequences of misinformation surrounding COVID-19 on social media. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms have engaged in efforts to combat misinformation but they have continued to receive widespread criticism that misinformation is still appearing on prominent pages and groups (Kouzy et al., 2020; NewsGuard, 2020). The extent to which misinformation continues to circulate on these platforms and influence people’s attitudes and behaviours is still very much an open question.
Here, we draw on three data sets and a sequential mixed method approach to better understand the consequences of online misinformation for important behaviours and attitudes. First, we collected nearly 2.5 million tweets explicitly referring to COVID-19 in the Canadian context. Second, we collected just over 9 thousand articles from nineteen Canadian English-language news sites from the same time period. We coded both of these media sets for misinformation and public health recommendations. Third, we conducted a nationally representative survey that included questions related to media consumption habits, COVID-19 perceptions and misperceptions, and social distancing compliance. As our outcome variables are continuous, we use Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression to identify relationships between news and social media exposure, misperceptions, compliance with social distancing measures, and risk perceptions. We use these data to illustrate: 1) the relative prevalence of misinformation on Twitter; and 2) a powerful association between social media usage and misperceptions, on the one hand, and social distancing non-compliance on the other.
Misinformation and compliance with social distancing
We first compare the presence of misinformation on Twitter with that on news media and find, consistent with the other country cases (Chadwick & Vaccari, 2019; Vicario et al., 2016), comparatively higher levels of misinformation circulating on the social media platform. We also found that recommendations for safe practices during the pandemic (e.g. washing hands, social distancing) appeared much more frequently in the Canadian news media. These findings are in line with literature examining fake news which finds a large difference in information quality across media (Al-Rawi, 2019; Guess & Nyhan, 2018).
Spending time in a media environment that contains misinformation is likely to change attitudes and behaviours. Even if users are not nested in networks that propagate misinformation, they are likely to be incidentally exposed to information from a variety of perspectives (Feezell, 2018; Fletcher & Nielsen, 2018; Weeks et al., 2017). Even a highly curated social media feed is thus still likely to contain misinformation. As cumulative exposure to misinformation increases, users are likely to experience a reinforcement effect whereby familiarity leads to stronger belief (Dechêne et al., 2010).
To evaluate this empirically, we conducted a national survey that included questions on information consumption habits and a battery of COVID-19 misperceptions that could be the result of exposure to misinformation. We find that those who self-report exposure to the misinformation-rich social media environment do tend to have more misperceptions regarding COVID-19. These findings are consistent with others that link exposure to misinformation and misperceptions (Garrett et al., 2016; Jamieson & Albarracín, 2020). Social media users also self-report less compliance with social distancing.
Misperceptions are most meaningful when they impact behaviors in dangerous ways. During a pandemic, misperceptions can be fatal. In this case, we find that misperceptions are associated with reduced COVID-19 risk perceptions and with lower compliance with social distancing measures. We continue to find strong effects after controlling for socio-economic characteristics as well as scientific literacy. After accounting for the effect of misperceptions on social distancing non-compliance, social media usage no longer has a significant association with non-compliance, providing evidence that social media may lead to less social distancing compliance through its effect on COVID-19 misperceptions.
While some social media companies have made efforts to suppress misinformation on their platforms, there continues to be a high level of misinformation relative to news media. Highly polarized political environments and media ecosystems can lead to the spread of misinformation, such as in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic (Allcott et al., 2020; Motta et al., 2020). But even in healthy media ecosystems with less partisan news (Owen et al., 2020), social media can continue to facilitate the spread of misinformation. There is a real danger that without concerted efforts to reduce the amount of misinformation shared on social media, the large-scale social efforts required to combat COVID-19 will be undermined.
We contribute to a growing base of evidence that misinformation circulating on social media poses public health risks and join others in calling for social media companies to put greater focus on flattening the curve of misinformation (Donovan, 2020). These findings also provide governments with stronger evidence that the misinformation circulating on social media can be directly linked to misperceptions and public health risks. Such evidence is essential for them to chart an effective policy course. Finally, the methods and approach developed in this paper can be fruitfully applied to study other waves of misinformation and the research community can build upon the link clearly drawn between misinformation exposure, misperceptions, and downstream attitudes and behaviours.
We found use of social media platforms broadly contributes to misperceptions but were unable to precise the overall level of misinformation circulating on non-Twitter social media. Data access for researchers to platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram is limited and virtually non-existent for SnapChat, WhatsApp, and WeChat. Cross-platform content comparisons are an important ingredient for a rich understand of the social media environment and these social media companies must better open their platforms to research in the public interest.
Finding 1: Misinformation about COVID-19 is circulated more on Twitter as compared to traditional media.
We find large differences between the quality of information shared about COVID-19 on traditional news and Twitter. Figure 1 shows the percentage of COVID-19 related content that contains information linked to a particular theme. The plot reports the prevalence of information on both social and news media for: 1) three specific pieces of misinformation; 2) a general set of content that describes the pandemic itself as a conspiracy or a hoax; and 3) advice about hygiene and social distancing during the pandemic. We differentiate content that shared misinformation (red in the plot) from content that debunked misinformation (green in the plot).
There are large differences between the levels of misinformation on Twitter and news media. Misinformation was comparatively more common on Twitter across all four categories, while debunking was relatively more common in traditional news. Meanwhile, advice on hygiene and social distancing appeared much more frequently in news media. Note that higher percentages are to be expected for longer format news articles since we rely on keyword searches for identification. This makes the misinformation findings even starker – despite much higher average word counts, far fewer news articles propagate misinformation.
Finding 2: There is a strong association between social media exposure and misperceptions about COVID-19. The inverse is true for exposure to traditional news.
Among our survey respondents we find a corresponding strong association between social media exposure and misperceptions about COVID-19. These results are plotted in Figure 2, with controls included for both socioeconomic characteristics and demographics. Moving from no social media exposure to its maximum is expected to increase one’s misperceptions of COVID-19 by 0.22 on the 0-1 scale and decreased self-reported social distancing compliance by 0.12 on that same scale.
This result stands in stark contrast with the observed relationship between traditional news exposure and our outcome measures. Traditional news exposure is positively associated with correct perceptions regarding COVID-19. Moving from no news exposure to its highest level is expected to reduce misperceptions by 0.12 on the 0-1 scale and to increase social distancing compliance by 0.28 on that same scale. The effects are plotted in Figure 2. Social media usage appears to be correlated with COVID-19 misperceptions, suggesting these misperceptions are partially a result of misinformation on social media. The same cannot be said of traditional news exposure.
Finding 3: Misperceptions about the pandemic are associated with lower levels of risk perceptions and social distancing compliance.
COVID-19 misperceptions are also powerfully associated with lower levels of social distancing compliance. Moving from the lowest level of COVID-19 misperceptions to its maximum is associated with a reduction of one’s social distancing by 0.39 on the 0-1 scale. The previously observed relationship between social media exposure and misperceptions disappears, suggestive of a mediated relationship. That is, social media exposure increases misperceptions, which in turn reduces social distancing compliance. Misperceptions is also weakly associated with lower COVID-19 risk perceptions. Estimates from our models using COVID-19 concern as the outcome can be found in the left panel of Figure 3, while social distancing can be found in the right panel.
Finally, we also see that the relationship between misinformation and both social distancing compliance and COVID-19 concern hold when including controls for science literacy and a number of fundamental predispositions that are likely associated with both misperceptions and following the advice of scientific experts, such as anti-intellectualism, pseudoscientific beliefs, and left-right ideology. These estimates can similarly be found in Figure 3.
Canadian Twitter and news data were collected from March 26 th to April 6 th , 2020. We collected all English-language tweets from a set of 620,000 users that have been determined to be likely Canadians. For inclusion, a given user must self-identify as Canadian-based, follow a large number of Canadian political elite accounts, or frequently use Canadian-specific hashtags. News media was collected from nineteen prominent Canadian news sites with active RSS feeds. These tweets and news articles were searched for “covid” or “coronavirus”, leaving a sample of 2.25 million tweets and 8,857 news articles.
Of the COVID-19 related content, we searched for terms associated with four instances of misinformation that circulated during the COVID-19 pandemic: that COVID-19 was no more serious than the flu, that vitamin C or other supplements will prevent contraction of the virus, that the initial animal-to-human transfer of the virus was the direct result of eating bats, or that COVID-19 was a hoax or conspiracy. Given that we used keyword searches to identify content, we manually reviewed a random sample of 500 tweets from each instance of misinformation. Each tweet was coded as one of four categories: propagating misinformation, combatting misinformation, content with the relevant keywords but unrelated to misinformation, or content that refers to the misinformation but does not offer comment.
We then calculated the overall level of misinformation for that instance on Twitter by multiplying the overall volume of tweets by the proportion of hand-coded content where misinformation was identified. Each news article that included relevant keywords was similarly coded. The volume of the news mentioning these terms was sufficiently low that all news articles were hand coded. To identify health recommendations, we used a similar keyword search for terms associated with particular recommendations: 1) social distancing including staying at home, staying at least 6 feet or 2 meters away and avoiding gatherings; and 2) washing hands and not touching any part of your face. 1 Further details on the media collection strategy and hand-coding schema are available in the supporting materials.
For survey data, we used a sample of nearly 2,500 Canadian citizens 18 years or older drawn from a probability-based online national panel fielded from April 2-6, 2020. Quotas we set on age, gender, region, and language to ensure sample representativeness, and data was further weighted within region by gender and age based on the 2016 Canadian census.
We measure levels of COVID-19 misperceptions by asking respondents to rate the truthfulness of a series of nine false claims, such as the coronavirus being no worse than the seasonal flu or that it can be warded off with Vitamin C. Each was asked on a scale from definitely false (0) to definitely true (5). We use Cronbach’s Alpha as an indicator of scale reliability. Cronbach’s Alpha ranges from 0-1, with scores above 0.8 indicating the reliability is “good.” These items score 0.88, so we can safely construct a 0-1 scale of misperceptions from them.
We evaluate COVID-19 risk perceptions with a pair of questions asking respondents how serious of a threat they believe the pandemic to be for themselves and for Canadians, respectively. Each question was asked on a scale from not at all (0) to very (4). We construct a continuous index with these items.
We quantify social distancing by asking respondents to indicate which of a series of behaviours they had undertaken in response to the pandemic, such as working from home or avoiding in-person contact with friends, family, and acquaintances. We use principal component analysis (PCA) to reduce the number of dimensions in these data while minimizing information loss. The analysis revealed 2 distinct dimensions in our questions. One dimension includes factors strongly determined by occupation, such as working from home and switching to online meetings. The other dimension contains more inclusive behaviours such as avoiding contact, travel, and crowded places. We generate predictions from the PCA for this latter dimension to use in our analyses. The factor loadings can be found in Table A1 of the supporting materials.
We gauge news and social media consumption by asking respondents to identify news outlets and social media platforms they have used over the past week for political news. The list of news outlets included 17 organizations such as mainstream sources like CBC and Global, and partisan outlets like Rebel Media and National Observer. The list of social media platforms included 10 options such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. We sum the total number of outlets/platforms respondents report using and take the log to adjust for extreme values. We measure offline political discussion with an index based on questions asking how often respondents have discussed politics with family, friends, and acquaintances over the past week. Descriptions of our primary variables can be found in Table A2 of the supporting materials.
We evaluate our hypotheses using a standard design that evaluates the association between our explanatory and outcome variables controlling for other observable factors we measured. In practice, randomly assigning social media exposure is impractical, while randomly assigning misinformation is unethical. This approach allows us to describe these relationships, though we cannot make definite claims to causality.
We hypothesize that social media exposure is associated with misinformation on COVID-19. Figure 2 presents the coefficients of models predicting the effects of news exposure, social media exposure, and political discussion on COVID-19 misinformation, risk perceptions, and social distancing. Socio-economic and demographic control estimates are not displayed. Full estimation results can be found in the Table A3 of the supporting materials.
We further hypothesize that COVID-19 misinformation is associated with lower COVID-19 risk perceptions and less social distancing compliance. Figure 3 presents the coefficients for models predicting the effects of misinformation, news exposure, and social media exposure on severity perceptions and social distancing. We show models with and without controls for science literacy and other predispositions. Full estimation results can be found in the Table A4 of the supporting materials.
Limitations and robustness
A study such as this comes with clear limitations. First, we have evaluated information coming from only a section of the overall media ecosystem and during a specific time-period. The level of misinformation differs across platforms and online news sites and a more granular investigation into these dynamics would be valuable. Our analysis suggests that similar dynamics exist across social media platforms, however. In the supplementary materials we show that associations between misperceptions and social media usage are even higher for other social media platforms, suggesting that our analysis of Twitter content may underrepresent the prevalence of misinformation on social media writ large. As noted above, existing limitations on data access make such cross-platform research difficult.
Second, our data is drawn from a single country and language case study and other countries may have different media environments and levels of misinformation circulating on social media. We anticipate the underlying dynamics found in this paper to hold across these contexts, however. Those who consume information from platforms where misinformation is more prevalent will have greater misperceptions and that these misperceptions will be linked to lower compliance with social distancing and lower risk perceptions. Third, an ecological problem is present wherein we do not link survey respondents directly to their social media consumption (and evaluation of the misinformation they are exposed to) and lack the ability to randomly assign social media exposure to make a strong causal argument. We cannot and do not make a causal argument here but argue instead that there is strong evidence for a misinformation to misperceptions to lower social distancing compliance link.
- / Fake News
- / Mainstream Media
- / Public Health
- / Social Media
Cite this Essay
Bridgman, A., Merkley, E., Loewen, P. J., Owen, T., Ruths, D., Teichmann, L., & Zhilin, O. (2020). The causes and consequences of COVID-19 misperceptions: Understanding the role of news and social media. Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) Misinformation Review . https://doi.org/10.37016/mr-2020-028
Allcott, H., Boxell, L., Conway, J. C., Gentzkow, M., Thaler, M., & Yang, D. Y. (2020). Polarization and Public Health: Partisan Differences in Social Distancing during the Coronavirus Pandemic (Working Paper No. 26946; Working Paper Series). National Bureau of Economic Research. https://doi.org/10.3386/w26946
Al-Rawi, A. (2019). Gatekeeping Fake News Discourses on Mainstream Media Versus Social Media. Social Science Computer Review , 37 (6), 687–704. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439318795849
Chadwick, A., & Vaccari, C. (2019). News sharing on UK social media: Misinformation, disinformation, and correction [Report]. Loughborough University. https://repository.lboro.ac.uk/articles/News_sharing_on_UK_social_media_misinformation_disinformation_and_correction/9471269
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Donovan, J. (2020). Social-media companies must flatten the curve of misinformation. Nature . https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-020-01107-z
Feezell, J. T. (2018). Agenda Setting through Social Media: The Importance of Incidental News Exposure and Social Filtering in the Digital Era. Political Research Quarterly , 71 (2), 482–494. https://doi.org/10.1177/1065912917744895
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Fung, I. C.-H., Fu, K.-W., Chan, C.-H., Chan, B. S. B., Cheung, C.-N., Abraham, T., & Tse, Z. T. H. (2016). Social Media’s Initial Reaction to Information and Misinformation on Ebola, August 2014: Facts and Rumors. Public Health Reports , 131 (3), 461–473. https://doi.org/10.1177/003335491613100312
Garrett, R. K. (2019). Social media’s contribution to political misperceptions in U.S. Presidential elections. PLoS ONE , 14 (3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0213500
Garrett, R. K., Weeks, B. E., & Neo, R. L. (2016). Driving a Wedge Between Evidence and Beliefs: How Online Ideological News Exposure Promotes Political Misperceptions. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication , 21 (5), 331–348. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcc4.12164
Guess, A., & Nyhan, B. (2018). Selective Exposure to Misinformation: Evidence from the consumption of fake news during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. European Research Council , 49.
Jamieson, K. H., & Albarracín, D. (2020). The Relation between Media Consumption and Misinformation at the Outset of the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic in the US. Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review , 2 . https://doi.org/10.37016/mr-2020-012
Kim, L., Fast, S. M., & Markuzon, N. (2019). Incorporating media data into a model of infectious disease transmission. PLOS ONE , 14 (2), e0197646. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0197646
Kouzy, R., Abi Jaoude, J., Kraitem, A., El Alam, M. B., Karam, B., Adib, E., Zarka, J., Traboulsi, C., Akl, E. W., & Baddour, K. (2020). Coronavirus Goes Viral: Quantifying the COVID-19 Misinformation Epidemic on Twitter. Cureus , 12 (3). https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.7255
Mitchell, A., Gottfried, J., Barthel, M., & Shearer, E. (2016, July 7). The Modern News Consumer. Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project . https://www.journalism.org/2016/07/07/the-modern-news-consumer/
Motta, M., Stecula, D., & Farhart, C. E. (2020). How Right-Leaning Media Coverage of COVID-19 Facilitated the Spread of Misinformation in the Early Stages of the Pandemic [Preprint]. SocArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/a8r3p
NewsGuard. (2020). Superspreaders . https://www.newsguardtech.com/superspreaders/
Owen, T., Loewen, P., Ruths, D., Bridgman, A., Gorwa, R., MacLellan, S., Merkley, E., & Zhilin, O. (2020). Lessons in Resilience: Canada’s Digital Media Ecosystem and the 2019 Election . Public Policy Forum. https://ppforum.ca/articles/lessons-in-resilience-canadas-digital-media-ecosystem-and-the-2019-election/
Radzikowski, J., Stefanidis, A., Jacobsen, K. H., Croitoru, A., Crooks, A., & Delamater, P. L. (2016). The Measles Vaccination Narrative in Twitter: A Quantitative Analysis. JMIR Public Health and Surveillance , 2 (1), e1. https://doi.org/10.2196/publichealth.5059
Sharma, M., Yadav, K., Yadav, N., & Ferdinand, K. C. (2017). Zika virus pandemic—Analysis of Facebook as a social media health information platform. American Journal of Infection Control , 45 (3), 301–302. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajic.2016.08.022
Shin, J., Jian, L., Driscoll, K., & Bar, F. (2018). The diffusion of misinformation on social media: Temporal pattern, message, and source. Computers in Human Behavior , 83 , 278–287. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.02.008
Vicario, M. D., Bessi, A., Zollo, F., Petroni, F., Scala, A., Caldarelli, G., Stanley, H. E., & Quattrociocchi, W. (2016). The spreading of misinformation online. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 113 (3), 554–559. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1517441113
Weeks, B. E., Lane, D. S., Kim, D. H., Lee, S. S., & Kwak, N. (2017). Incidental Exposure, Selective Exposure, and Political Information Sharing: Integrating Online Exposure Patterns and Expression on Social Media. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication , 22 (6), 363–379. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcc4.12199
The project was funded through the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Digital Citizens Initiative.
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The research protocol was approved by the institutional review board at University of Toronto. Human subjects gave informed consent before participating and were debriefed at the end of the study.
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that the original author and source are properly credited.
All materials needed to replicate this study are available via the Harvard Dataverse: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/5QS2XP .
- COVID-19 and your mental health
Worries and anxiety about COVID-19 and its impact can be overwhelming. Learn ways to cope during this pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have brought many changes to how you live your life, and with it, at times, uncertainty, altered daily routines, financial pressures and social isolation. You may worry about getting sick, how long the pandemic will last, whether your job will be affected and what the future will bring. Information overload, rumors and misinformation can make your life feel out of control and make it unclear what to do.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. And mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, can worsen.
Surveys show a major increase in the number of U.S. adults who report symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia during the pandemic, compared with surveys before the pandemic. Some people have increased their use of alcohol or drugs, thinking that can help them cope with their fears about the pandemic. In reality, using these substances can worsen anxiety and depression.
People with substance use disorders, notably those addicted to tobacco or opioids, are likely to have worse outcomes if they get COVID-19 . That's because these addictions can harm lung function and weaken the immune system, causing chronic conditions such as heart disease and lung disease, which increase the risk of serious complications from COVID-19 .
For all of these reasons, it's important to learn self-care strategies and get the care you need to help you cope.
Self-care strategies are good for your mental and physical health and can help you take charge of your life. Take care of your body and your mind and connect with others to benefit your mental health.
Take care of your body
Be mindful about your physical health:
- Get enough sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same times each day. Stick close to your typical sleep-wake schedule, even if you're staying at home.
- Participate in regular physical activity. Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. Find an activity that includes movement, such as dance or exercise apps. Get outside, such as a nature trail or your own backyard.
- Eat healthy. Choose a well-balanced diet. Avoid loading up on junk food and refined sugar. Limit caffeine as it can aggravate stress, anxiety and sleep problems.
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drugs. If you smoke tobacco or if you vape, you're already at higher risk of lung disease. Because COVID-19 affects the lungs, your risk increases even more. Using alcohol to try to cope can make matters worse and reduce your coping skills. Avoid taking drugs to cope, unless your doctor prescribed medications for you.
- Limit screen time. Turn off electronic devices for some time each day, including 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Make a conscious effort to spend less time in front of a screen — television, tablet, computer and phone.
- Relax and recharge. Set aside time for yourself. Even a few minutes of quiet time can be refreshing and help to settle your mind and reduce anxiety. Many people benefit from practices such as deep breathing, tai chi, yoga, mindfulness or meditation. Soak in a bubble bath, listen to music, or read or listen to a book — whatever helps you relax. Select a technique that works for you and practice it regularly.
Take care of your mind
Reduce stress triggers:
- Keep your regular routine. Maintaining a regular daily schedule is important to your mental health. In addition to sticking to a regular bedtime routine, keep consistent times for meals, bathing and getting dressed, work or study schedules, and exercise. Also set aside time for activities you enjoy. This predictability can make you feel more in control.
- Limit exposure to news media. Constant news about COVID-19 from all types of media can heighten fears about the disease. Limit social media that may expose you to rumors and false information. Also limit reading, hearing or watching other news, but keep up to date on national and local recommendations. Look for reliable sources, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Stay busy. Healthy distractions can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression. Enjoy hobbies that you can do at home, such as reading a book, writing in a journal, making a craft, playing games or cooking a new meal. Or identify a new project or clean out that closet you promised you'd get to. Doing something positive to manage anxiety is a healthy coping strategy.
- Focus on positive thoughts. Choose to focus on the positive things in your life, instead of dwelling on how bad you feel. Consider starting each day by listing things you are thankful for. Maintain a sense of hope, work to accept changes as they occur and try to keep problems in perspective.
- Use your moral compass or spiritual life for support. If you draw strength from a belief system, it can bring you comfort during difficult and uncertain times.
- Set priorities. Don't become overwhelmed by creating a life-changing list of things to achieve while you're home. Set reasonable goals each day and outline steps you can take to reach those goals. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. And recognize that some days will be better than others.
Connect with others
Build support and strengthen relationships:
Make connections. If you work remotely from home or you need to isolate yourself from others for a period of time due to COVID-19 , avoid social isolation. Find time each day to make virtual connections by email, texts, phone or video chat. If you're working remotely from home, ask your co-workers how they're doing and share coping tips. Enjoy virtual socializing and talking to those in your home.
If you're not fully vaccinated, be creative and safe when connecting with others in person, such as going for walks, chatting in the driveway and other outdoor activities, or wearing a mask for indoor activities.
If you are fully vaccinated, you can more safely return to many indoor and outdoor activities you may not have been able to do because of the pandemic, such as gathering with friends and family. If you are in an area with a high number of people with COVID-19 in the hospital, the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public or outdoors in crowded areas or in close contact with unvaccinated people. For unvaccinated people, outdoor activities that allow plenty of space between you and others pose a lower risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus than indoor activities do.
- Do something for others. Find purpose in helping the people around you. Helping others is an excellent way to help ourselves. For example, email, text or call to check on your friends, family members and neighbors — especially those who are older. If you know someone who can't get out, ask if there's something needed, such as groceries or a prescription picked up.
- Support a family member or friend. If a family member or friend needs to be quarantined at home or in the hospital due to COVID-19 , come up with ways to stay in contact. This could be through electronic devices or the telephone or by sending a note to brighten the day, for example.
Avoid stigma and discrimination
Stigma can make people feel isolated and even abandoned. They may feel depressed, hurt and angry when friends and others in their community avoid them for fear of getting COVID-19 .
Stigma harms people's health and well-being in many ways. Stigmatized groups may often be deprived of the resources they need to care for themselves and their families during a pandemic. And people who are worried about being stigmatized may be less likely to get medical care.
People who have experienced stigma related to COVID-19 include people of Asian descent, health care workers, people with COVID-19 and those released from quarantine. People who are stigmatized may be excluded or shunned, treated differently, denied job and educational opportunities, and be targets of verbal, emotional and physical abuse.
You can reduce stigma by:
- Getting the facts about COVID-19 from reputable sources such as the CDC and WHO
- Speaking up if you hear or see inaccurate statements about COVID-19 and certain people or groups
- Reaching out to people who feel stigmatized
- Showing support for health care workers
Recognize what's typical and what's not
Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations, and it's normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis. But multiple challenges, such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, can push you beyond your ability to cope.
Many people may have mental health concerns, such as symptoms of anxiety and depression during this time. And feelings may change over time.
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling helpless, sad, angry, irritable, hopeless, anxious or afraid. You may have trouble concentrating on typical tasks, changes in appetite, body aches and pains, or difficulty sleeping or you may struggle to face routine chores.
When these signs and symptoms last for several days in a row, make you miserable and cause problems in your daily life so that you find it hard to carry out normal responsibilities, it's time to ask for help.
Get help when you need it
Hoping mental health problems such as anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms. If you have concerns or if you experience worsening of mental health symptoms, ask for help when you need it, and be upfront about how you're doing. To get help you may want to:
- Call or use social media to contact a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
- Contact your employee assistance program, if your employer has one, and ask for counseling or a referral to a mental health professional.
- Call your primary care professional or mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance. Some may provide the option of phone, video or online appointments.
- Contact organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America for help and guidance on information and treatment options.
If you're feeling suicidal or thinking of hurting yourself, seek help. Contact your primary care professional or a mental health professional. Or contact a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline , available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat . Services are free and confidential.
Continue your self-care strategies
You can expect your current strong feelings to fade when the pandemic is over, but stress won't disappear from your life when the health crisis of COVID-19 ends. Continue these self-care practices to take care of your mental health and increase your ability to cope with life's ongoing challenges.
- How stress affects your health. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-facts. Accessed Oct. 19, 2021.
- Taking care of your emotional health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp. Accessed Oct. 19, 2021.
- COVID-19 resource and information guide. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Support-Education/NAMI-HelpLine/COVID-19-Information-and-Resources/COVID-19-Resource-and-Information-Guide. Accessed Oct. 19, 2021.
- Combating bias and stigma related to COVID-19. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19-bias. Accessed Oct. 19, 2021.
- #HealthyAtHome—Mental health. World Health Organization. www.who.int/campaigns/connecting-the-world-to-combat-coronavirus/healthyathome/healthyathome---mental-health. Accessed Oct. 19, 2021.
- Your healthiest self: Emotional wellness toolkit. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nih.gov/health-information/emotional-wellness-toolkit. Accessed Oct. 19, 2021.
- Coping with stress. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/stress-coping/cope-with-stress/. Accessed Oct. 19, 2021.
- Manage stress. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/health-conditions/heart-health/manage-stress. Accessed March 20, 2020.
- Health effects of cigarette smoking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm#respiratory. Accessed March 25, 2020.
- Sawchuk CN (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. March 27, 2020.
- Holman EA, et al. The unfolding COVID-19 pandemic: A probability-based, nationally representative study of mental health in the U.S. Science Advances. 2020; doi:10.1126/sciadv.abd5390.
- Wang QQ, et al. COVID-19 risk and outcomes in patients with substance use disorders: Analyses from electronic health records in the United States. Molecular Psychiatry. 2020; doi:10.1038/s41380-020-00880-7.
- Ettman CK, et al. Prevalence of depression symptoms in U.S. adults before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA Network Open. 2020; doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.19686.
- Czeisler ME, et al. Mental health, substance use, and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic — United States, June 24-30, 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm. Accessed Oct. 12, 2020.
- Social stigma associated with COVID-19. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/covid19-stigma-guide.pdf. Accessed Oct. 20, 2021.
- Yashadhana A, et al. Pandemic-related racial discrimination and its health impact among non-Indigenous racially minoritized peoples in high-income contexts: A systematic review. Health Promotion International. 2021; doi:10.1093/heapro/daab144.
- Participate in outdoor and indoor activities. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/outdoor-activities.html. Accessed Nov. 16, 2021.
- When you've been fully vaccinated. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html. Accessed Nov. 16, 2021.
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Why did the budget deficit grow so much in FY 2023? And what does this imply about the future debt trajectory?
Subscribe to the hutchins roundup and newsletter, louise sheiner and louise sheiner the robert s. kerr senior fellow - economic studies , policy director - the hutchins center on fiscal and monetary policy @lsheiner alexander conner alexander conner senior research assistant - economic studies , the hutchins center on fiscal and monetary policy.
November 22, 2023
The federal budget deficit—the difference between government spending and revenues— increased from 5.4% of GDP in FY 2022 to 6.3% of GDP in FY 2023 . Adjusting for the effects of President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, which boosted the deficit in FY 2022 when it was announced and decreased it in FY 2023 when it was ruled unconstitutional, the increase was significantly larger—from 3.9% of GDP last fiscal year to 7.5% in 2023.
Why did the deficit increase so much?
As shown in the table below, a decline in revenues explains most of the increase. Revenues were extraordinarily robust in FY 2022—reaching 19.4% of GDP compared to the 2018-2019 (pre-pandemic and post-Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) average of 16.3% of GDP. Most of the strength was in individual income taxes—likely reflecting robust capital gains realizations because of the strong stock market, as well as lags in the adjustments of income tax brackets for inflation (which temporarily pushed people into higher tax brackets).
Revenues in FY 2023 were 16.5% of GDP—a bit above the 2018-2019 average. Revenues were depressed by several one-time or temporary factors. First, the IRS delayed both corporate and individual income tax filing deadlines for Californians affected by severe winter storms to November 2023 (which falls in FY 2024), lowering revenues in FY 2023 by about 0.3% of GDP. Second, refunds from the pandemic-era Employee Retention Tax Credit (which ended in 2021) surged in FY 2023 as businesses submitted amended returns, also lowering revenues by about 0.3% of GDP (relative to roughly 0.15% in FY 2022). Finally, high interest rates reduced Federal Reserve profits, causing the Fed’s remittances to the Treasury to fall from 0.4% of GDP in FY 2022 to about 0. Without these special factors, and assuming average Fed remittances, receipts would have been about 17.4% of GDP—less than in FY 2022, but still strong relative to recent history.
Spending excluding interest was just a touch higher as a share of GDP in FY 2023 than in FY 2022. Spending on the major mandatory programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—rose by 0.3% of GDP. Reductions in spending on pandemic programs (the enhanced Child Tax Credit, Coronavirus Relief, and the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund) were largely offset by one-time spending increases by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and by low spectrum auction receipts (which are counted as negative spending). Higher interest rates pushed up the cost of debt service, increasing total outlays by 0.5% of GDP in FY 2023 relative to FY 2022.
What happened to the federal debt in FY 2023?
Despite the 7.5% of GDP adjusted deficit, the debt to GDP ratio rose only 1.6 percentage points from FY 2022 to FY 2023—from 96% to 97.6%. The intuition for this much smaller increase is as follows: High inflation raises the government’s borrowing costs—which boosts interest payments and the deficit as a share of GDP—but, because not all the government’s debt rolls over each year, high inflation boosts nominal GDP growth more. The change in the debt to GDP ratio is approximately equal to the primary deficit (revenues less non-interest spending) as a share of GDP less last year’s debt to GDP ratio multiplied by the difference between the government’s borrowing rate and the growth rate of GDP. So, by boosting GDP growth more than it boosts interest rates, an increase in inflation lowers the rise in the debt to GDP ratio, despite increasing the deficit.
How do the deficit outlook and debt outlook compare to pre-pandemic projections?
In January 2020, the CBO projected that the deficit would be 4.5% of GDP in FY 2023. The actual deficit was about 3% of GDP higher. However, the bulk of that difference is accounted for by pandemic-era programs, one-time outlays, and temporarily lower revenues. As of May 2023 , CBO was projecting that deficits from 2024 through 2030 would be 0.9% of GDP higher on average than they had projected in January 2020. The increase is largely accounted for by higher interest payments on the debt accumulated during the pandemic, as higher projected discretionary spending is largely offset by lower than projected mandatory spending and stronger revenues.
What does the recent run-up in interest rates mean for the federal debt?
Interest rates have increased sharply in recent months. On November 20, 2023, the interest rate on 10-year inflation-protected Treasuries was 2.1%—up from 1.6% in January 2023, but down from the 2.5% observed just three weeks earlier. It is hard to know exactly what caused this surge in interest rates—and therefore hard to know whether it will persist. But if it does—and if it is not accompanied by higher productivity—it will make stabilizing the debt to GDP ratio more difficult.
When interest rates are below the growth rate of the economy—as they were for most years since 2010—the government can run small primary deficits (non-interest spending less revenues) without increasing the debt to GDP ratio. If interest rates are higher than economic growth, the government must run a surplus to keep the debt to GDP ratio from rising. High interest rates mean that a given set of tax and spending policies will lead to a steeper rise in debt to GDP and, also, that larger spending cuts (or revenue increases) will be needed to stabilize the debt to GDP ratio for any given level of the debt and deficit.
It’s possible that higher interest rates will be accompanied by (or are potentially the result of) higher productivity growth—perhaps from the adoption of artificial intelligence. Higher productivity growth has two effects. First, it lowers the primary deficit (revenues less non-interest spending) because revenues rise and spending falls as a share of GDP when productivity increases. Second, higher productivity growth boosts GDP, lowering any given level of debt relative to GDP.
This graph shows a rough estimate of the effects of a 0.5 percentage point persistent increase in interest rates alone (about the difference between the inflation-adjusted rate that prevailed on November 20 and what CBO expected last May for 2025)—as well as the combined effects of that increase in interest rates combined with an increase in productivity only half as large (0.25 percentage point). Without an increase in productivity, the higher interest rates increase the debt to GDP ratio in 2053 from 180% in the baseline to 195%. 1 But increases in productivity are quite powerful—even an increase in productivity growth of 0.25 percentage point is enough to more than offset the effects of the higher interest rates, bringing the debt to GDP ratio in 2053 down to 163% of GDP.
The recent increase in the deficit doesn’t fundamentally change the fiscal outlook for the U.S. Much of the increase is caused by temporary or one-off factors that have been offset in debt to GDP by inflation and strong growth. Persistently high interest rates, however, could exacerbate fiscal sustainability challenges unless accompanied by higher productivity growth.
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- In estimating this trajectory, we haven’t accounted for any macroeconomic feedback effects of higher interest rates on GDP growth. However, these effects would likely be fairly small, judging from CBO’s July 2023 analysis of a bigger rise in interest rates.
Federal Fiscal Policy
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