Presidential tweets, hyperbolic headlines and a jittery world make scientific warnings seem like just part of the noise. COVID-19 makes it critical that we pay attention to facts and get prepared.

COVID-19 is the official name of the flu-like illness caused by a new strain of coronavirus that appeared first in China and that experts say could become a pandemic spreading across the world.

Much isn’t known about this pathogen yet. What is known is being twisted and obscured by unhelpful and sometimes dangerous nonsense.

President Trump has been tweeting to downplay the seriousness of a situation his administration seems ill-prepared to handle. He repeatedly claimed 15 U.S. cases as the number rapidly rose above 60 and the locations of patients spread.

“We’re rapidly developing a vaccine,” he claimed while scientists cautioned that an effective and safe vaccine is at least a year away.

Conspiracy theories taken seriously by the talking heads on Fox News have the Chinese creating the coronavirus as a bioweapon, Democrats applauding Americans’ becoming ill and the media ginning up fear of a simple flu.

Vice President Mike Pence has become the coronavirus czar, despite his gubernatorial record of ignoring health officials in his own state during an outbreak of AIDs. The result was an epidemic.

Misinformation, disinformation, administrative chaos and political pandering distort what we do know about the dangers of COVID-19.

It is not just the flu. Death rates could make it comparable to the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. COVID-19 won’t go away in April. Like other coronaviruses, it could reappear in the fall. Large numbers of seriously ill patients could overwhelm available treatment resources.

Or, it could prove more controllable, like the swine flu. Children already seem relatively immune and deaths have been mostly among either those heavily exposed, like unprotected health care workers, or those with compromised lungs.

Americans need to become reacquainted with reality and listen only to experts with legitimate credentials. Right now, they are advising people to wash their hands, including fingernails, and wipe down surfaces they use. Cover coughs and sneezes with an arm or a cloth or tissue. Don’t smoke or do anything else that might weaken the lungs. People who are sick should stay home.

COVID-19 isn’t a conspiracy, and it isn’t a bioweapon. The best course of action isn’t panic, and it is definitely not to believe nonscientific information sources.

Load comments