Trudeau debunks COVID-19 ‘internment camp’ misinformation and rumours; Ontario’s daily case count jumps up over 800

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

PM addresses disinformation, misinformation around COVID-19

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented on the amount of misinformation circulating about COVID-19 and the government’s response, including claims that there will be coronavirus internment camps in Canada.

The rumour began during Question Period on October 7, when Ontario MPP Randy Hillier asked if quarantine sites meant for incoming travellers who have no other place to quarantine were to be turned into “internment camps.”

Buzz spread of the false allegation, which was debunked by Trudeau today.

“We’ve seen over the past number of years a rise in concerted efforts around misinformation and disinformation on a broad range of subjects, designed to undermine people’s confidence in their institutions, in their democracies,” Trudeau said. “Some are foreign actors trying to disrupt successful democracies, others are people with extremist agendas.”

“As a government, we need to continue to stand strong, particularly during a public health crisis where the best thing Canadians can do is listen to experts, listen to doctors.”

The prime minister added that there is a “tremendous amount of noise and harmful misinformation” on the internet but Canadians need to continue to look to trusted sources of information, like Canada’s chief public health officer and regional health authorities.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said misinformation and disinformation does not help public health officials and the collective system has tried, through various means, to provide credible information to the public.

“I think there’s a part for almost everyone,” Dr. Tam said. “There’s a part for journalists who are in this room to help reveal the sort of tactics and measures that are at play, including bots and other aspects of what’s actually happening in the social media space.”

She added that there is also a role for social media platforms, who have put some measures in place like directing people to credible sites if people are using certain searches and taking down some “outrageous” disinformation.

Dr. Tam stressed that when individuals are looking at information, they need to ask themselves where it came from and if it’s credible.

“Be media smart as well as science smart,” Canada’s chief public health officer said.

In advance of a viable COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Tam indicated Canada needs to “immunize the population against [misinformation and disinformation] before the vaccine arrives.” This includes providing information on the safety measures and rigorous processes of regulatory authorities.

She added that getting a better understanding of why people spread misinformation and disinformation is also important.


Ontario sees spike in daily COVID-19 cases

Ontario reported 821 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the highest daily total since surpassing 900 cases in early October. The province also identified three more COVID-19 deaths.

Of the new cases, 327 are Toronto, 136 in Peel, 64 in

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Fitness Influencers, Please Don’t Spread COVID-19 Misinformation on Social Media

My fellow fitness instructors, trainers, coaches, and influencers:

I beg you, please, for the love of the people’s health, do not use your platform to spread misinformation about COVID-19. Really, please. As someone who spent eight years getting a master’s and a Ph.D. in public health (partially focused on health communication), some of the posts and comments I have seen floating around the ’gram from fitness or yoga accounts, quite frankly, terrify me—like that people are blowing the virus out of proportion, or that it’s not actually that big of a deal. All things that we’ve also heard from our current administration.

The spread of this misinformation matters because it misleads beliefs and behaviors. It is detrimental not only to your individual followers or clients, but also to the public as a whole. COVID-19 is real. This is a global pandemic. Every person who contracts COVID-19 has the capability to further spread the virus, thus prolonging its life. Public health communication researchers and practitioners work tirelessly to figure out how to best communicate the right information in the right way to the right people; spreading misinformation has the potential to undo all of that.

As leaders and role models in the fitness and movement space, I want us to do better. Your followers and clients look to you for fitness guidance, workouts, and expertise. They see you as a reliable source and are used to taking your advice on anything in the wellness space. They are primed to believe what you put out, especially if you self-identify or have otherwise been anointed as a “health expert.” You’ve heard it before: With great power comes great responsibility. We need to accept that responsibility and take it seriously.

I do understand that there is a plethora of COVID-19 information circulating, so much of it seemingly contradictory and thus potentially confusing and frustrating. The most well-meaning of us can easily fall into the trap of assuming something’s accuracy if we aren’t paying close attention. Add to that the fear for our own health or our careers and the grief for the lives we were living before March, along with the anger and anxiety about our reality today, and we are especially primed to react to COVID-19 news, especially involving headlines that are specifically crafted to activate negative emotions.

Reacting too quickly to COVID-19 news without first verifying it can lead to further disseminating misinformation, even unintentionally. In a social media sense, that translates to sending, sharing, reposting, or commenting something that spreads uninformed or ill-informed messaging. Doing so means you have now become a vector; you are now perpetuating the pandemic of misinformation and contributing to the pandemic of COVID-19.

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