Johns Hopkins Medical Students Create Campaign to Confront COVID-19 Rumors with Facts

Neha Anand
Published on May 24, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.

Today on the Osmosis Blog, we're highlighting @covidup2date, a movement led by medical students at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. These students have made it their mission to provide the public with free, reliable information on the COVID-19 pandemic. The following announcement was originally published on Biomedical Odyssey, which shares stories of student life at Johns Hopkins University.

When we received news from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine that medical student clerkships would be cancelled until further notice due to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, my classmates and I felt devastated. Though we knew this important policy aimed to limit the spread of the virus and reserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for essential hospital staff, our role as medical students had become a question mark. No longer able to learn from patients on our rotations and contribute to their care, perhaps at a time when they needed it the most, we found ourselves yearning to stay involved, and most importantly, find a way to help.

We heard the news when we were scattered across the country on spring break. However, the distance didn’t stop us from coming together to form @covidup2date, a social media initiative that provides daily updates about the pandemic from reputable sources for the general public.

How did @covidup2date get started?

The idea for this initiative was born over a spontaneous midnight Facetime call with my fellow classmate. We both expressed frustration that we could not be in Baltimore to support our community locally and that we were unlikely to return anytime soon. We felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of rapidly evolving news and concerned for how people could distinguish the rumors and false information circulating on social media from the facts. Inspired, we dialed in another classmate to figure out how to help provide the general public with factual, concise, and relevant updates about the pandemic.

We settled on creating infographics about COVID-19 news, both in the US and globally, and debunking a myth each evening. The next day, we scoured the news, filtering for headlines but also stories not reported as heavily, and pieced together graphics for our first post. Our first myth was, “Young people are not affected by the coronavirus,” which we claimed as false, as we had heard this message propagated in the initial media reports and knew it was a belief many people held. On March 18, both excited and nervous, we released the first post. Positive reviews from family and friends bolstered our motivation to keep going.

What resources is @covidup2date sharing?

@covidup2date has expanded immensely with over 6,000 Instagram followers. To date, we have recruited over 30 students from not only Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, but also University of Maryland, UCSF, and Yale to research content and design graphics. In addition to our daily news and myths, we have posts on scientific developments, economic news, ways to take action, and highlights of individuals helping out during the crisis. It has been amazing to see how our team has harnessed our interests and talents to break down everything from new drug treatments to the value and necessity of social distancing. Messages and comments from followers with appreciation have been tremendously rewarding and have also validated the need for easily shareable factual information. 

We pull our information from a list of credible sources, which continues to expand as more and more resources emerge during the pandemic. Beyond the official information from the CDC and WHO, common sources we use include the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Kasier Family Foundation’s coronavirus page, LitCovid, and JAMA. We gather news from well-know fact-based sources, such as the New York Times and BBC, and cross-check stories across multiple outlets. After a team member researches the content, another designs the infographic, which is then sent to our entire team for additional edits and suggestions. We’ve learned just how powerful the infographic format is to present material in an aesthetically appealing manner to both engage and educate our audience with from reputable sources. We're also working with a Spanish professor to translate our resources into Spanish.

@covidup2date's role in the fight against COVID-19

While we are no longer walking the halls of the wards, performing physical exams or working up plans for patients during this time, I believe we are still practicing the skills we have learned throughout medical school. With this initiative, we both apply and continue to expand our foundation of medical and public health knowledge. We have brought our attention to detail, ability to synthesize and scrutinize large volumes of information, and collective organizational skills to work as a team in creating this resource for the community-at-large that we serve. Further, our compassion for everyone affected by the pandemic, whether physically, emotionally, or economically, drives us to improve the content we present everyday. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is an incredibly uncertain time for everyone in the world. Some of the most valuable experiences thus far in my training have been helping patients cope with uncertainty. From these encounters, I have learned how unwavering support and empathy can help ease anxiety about the future and pave a positive outlook. Similarly, our hope with @covidup2date, beyond bringing awareness to key issues during this pandemic, is to be a source of stability and solidarity for our followers as we take this uncertain time day-by-day. 

To learn more about us, you can find our page on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter with the handle @covidup2date. 

About Neha

Neha Anand is a third year medical student at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and co-creator of @covidup2date, a social media account aimed to provide the public with concise daily updates about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

@covidup2date Creators: Alexandra Berges, Lucy Nam, Neha Anand

Editorial: Alyssa Kretz, Alyssa Schledwitz, Ashley Zhou, Ashling Zhang, Brittany Tsou, Christine Gao, Christopher Leland, Clarissa Ren, Eilrayna Gelyana, Elisabeth Abeles, Evelyn Leland, Galen Shi, Grant Wilson, Inghu Siddarthan, Jenny Chen, Jennifer Chen, John Morkos, Minnie Jang, Rohan Panaparambil, Sahba Seddighi, Sara Wallam, Sarah Frey, Sarah Rapaport, Shannon Wongvibulsin, Tangkwa Sakulsaengprapha, Thomas Le, Ved Tanavde

Graphics: Amy Xu, Felicia Chang, Jenny Wang, Jonlin Chen, Nabila Ali, Oscar Covarrubias, Sabrina Wang, Sophie Gu, Terrence Tsou, Zoe Cosner 

Translation: Dr. Irene Corso, Raphael Ospino, Jose Munoz

Try Osmosis today! Access your free trial and find out why millions of clinicians and caregivers love learning with us.