Saskatoon doctor takes to social media to dispel COVID-19 myths

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Dr. Hassan Masri, a Saskatoon internal medicine and ICU specialist, is posting regular Facebook videos addressing questions about COVID-19.

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Andrea Hill  •  Saskatoon StarPhoenix Dr Hassan Masri, a Saskatoon internal medicine and ICU specialist, is posting regular Facebook videos to answer frequently asked questions about COVID-19. He started making the videos because he was concerned about people spreading misinformation about the virus. (Provided photo) Dr Hassan Masri, a Saskatoon internal medicine and ICU specialist, is posting regular Facebook videos to answer frequently asked questions about COVID-19. He started making the videos because he was concerned about people spreading misinformation about the virus. (Provided photo) Supplied photo

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Dr. Hassan Masri, an internal medicine and ICU specialist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, is posting regular Facebook videos where he addresses frequently asked questions about COVID-19. He spoke with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix about what drives him to produce the videos and what he thinks people need to know.

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Q: Why did you start posting these videos?

A: I speak both Arabic and English and I thought there was a huge need within specifically the new refugee community in Canada and abroad (to have more information about COVID-19). So initially I made a video in Arabic and then people were saying, “We need something similar to that in English.”

The very first video got a lot of attention and people were immediately sharing and asking questions. So I thought the need was big and, in a time where people are having a really hard time seeing their doctor because clinics have been closed and people are saying “Don’t go to the hospital, don’t get to the clinic unless you really need to,” I thought maybe this is a good venue.

And the last reason was I started to see a lot of messages on WhatsApp and Facebook where people are just spreading complete nonsense, spreading things that were not entirely accurate and, not only not accurate, but very damaging and potentially dangerous. So I thought (these videos) would be a good venue for someone local, who has credentials and background that people can trust and understand, to share information. And people’s response has been encouraging and now it has become a regular part of my week.

Q: What are the biggest misconceptions about COVID-19 that you’re seeing?

A: There’s a very, very small group that still believes that this is not a big deal or this is a hoax. And admittedly, the number of those people is very, very small and not very significant. And I think the majority of the public dismisses them very quickly and I don’t think their influence is quite major.

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But the other group that I find is quite damaging is the group of people who have their own way of treating it or curing it or thinking that if they did so-and-so they could be cured from it or not be hit with it. These things are very damaging because people who are reading such things are going to believe them and potentially not take this as seriously as possible or not seek medical help. It gives people either a false sense of safety or puts them and other people at risk for potentially really damaging results.

Q: What’s one message about COVID-19 that you want people to grasp?

A: A lot of people are asking about vaccinations and medications and all these naturopathic possibilities for a cure and, in my mind, the one thing that I would say to people is that instead of looking into all these avenues that may work or may not work, why don’t we focus on the one thing that is 100 per cent verified to work: staying home and physically distancing yourself from others while socially being engaged. That is 100 per cent effective.

It sounds very simple, sounds like something people have heard hundreds and hundreds of times, but I believe as a physician that this is something that cannot be stated enough. And if we said it day and night, it would still not be enough. Because it is so far the 100 per cent most effective way to lessen the impact and to shorten the number of dark days ahead of us.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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