The publication of rumors is never OK - and it's especially anathema now. With the country under the threat of COVID-19, inaccurate information could spark panic.
That's why the Daily Press has gone to great lengths to remove rumors from our Facebook page. Though we can't scan our timeline 24/7 - especially with the number of posts we are doing! - we have a number of concerned local folks who help us track down information we can't validate.
Some followers have expressed frustration that TDP has stated we don't have "official confirmation" of positive COVID-19 tests in Cherokee County. That doesn't mean there are no infections in Cherokee County; we must operate under the assumption the virus is here. But stating we've "heard" several people are infected is irresponsible journalism. Until we get the confirmation from a reliable source, we don't report it.
One such source is the Cherokee Nation, which confirmed March 24 a case in Adair County. Immediately after we released that report, TDP was accused of concealing the "fact" that the victim lives elsewhere. While we don't know the name of the man - and might never know, due to HIPAA laws - we have no reason to question the veracity of the report. In fact, tribal officials gave TDP the information in such a timely manner that even the State Department of Health did not have it on its update March 24.
As we have repeatedly said, swabs from tests conducted at medical facilities in Cherokee County and elsewhere are awaiting attention. It's public knowledge that there has been a dearth of test kits available in Oklahoma, which is why it has taken so long to get results. This was even the case for State Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, who had to wait a longer-than-necessary period to learn he tested negative. From that, the assumption can be made that several dozen tests are outstanding from this area - which is why health officials are asking everyone who has been swabbed to self-quarantine for 14 days. It is believed that symptoms would appear at least by then.
The job of health officials - including those working for the tribe - is not only to care for patients, but to keep the public as informed as they can, within the boundaries of privacy laws, and without starting a panic. It's also their job to educate the public, reminding them that hand-washing and social distancing are important. They want people to work from home when they can, and to avoid crowds. Only by doing these things can the virus be mitigated.
TDP has a similar job when it comes to the flow of information. Our job is to maintain contact with health, law enforcement and elected officials so we can be a conduit for the public. We also want to help the business community survive this crisis. And we will be bringing you stories of "everyday heroes" who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to help us get through this together.
We're entering uncharted territory, so we're facing atypical situations. For instance, we have to put specific dates and times in stories, because of any confusion words like just "Tuesday" might cause to website readers in this rapidly evolving crisis. When data becomes outdated, we try not only to provide the most current information, but go back and remove old material so someone won't grab it. That's very time-consuming, so we are relying on readers and sources to help us. We know we will make mistakes, so we ask for your patience, and your help.
Because we need to interact with hundreds of people seeking help and information, we have no time for "trolls" whose only purpose on our Facebook page is to condemn TDP or other people seeking information on our timeline or for an outlet to vent. Those who continue to sew seeds of dissension or post unconfirmed or inaccurate information will be prevented from interacting on our page.
Let's all keep our chins up, and help one another.