Trying to follow the news about COVID-19 is like sipping from a firehose with the nozzle clamped firmly between your teeth. The sheer volume of information is staggering, an order of magnitude more than that generated by this century’s earlier outbreaks like Ebola, cholera, and the H1N1 pandemic.
Worse yet, online disinformation is almost everywhere on social media (especially Donald Trump’s Twitter feed), drowning out reliable sources.
Those reliable sources are still out there, however, and if you know where to look you can get a pretty good sense of what’s happening. You may not like what you learn, but at least you’re learning it from experts reporting facts.
Canadian official sites
For other provincial health ministries, Google province name ministry of health.
Federally, the Public Health Agency of Canada will give you a good sense of the national situation.
International official sites
You can also check out the websites of most national ministries of health, some of which are superb and some not so much. (Don’t get me going about the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education; Google Translate has trouble with Farsi, and the propaganda is pretty thick.)*
COVID-19 has galvanized the medical journals, which are publishing scientific studies almost as fast as the virus is spreading. Many have dropped their paywalls, though you may need to register to get access.
The New England Journal of Medicine is another key source, often publishing Chinese researchers using data right from the scene.
Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the U.S. CDC, is also publishing important studies.
Media in global hot spots
In any outbreak I try to get as close to the source as I can, even if that means local media that may be under the control of unpleasant people like the House of Saud.
Many of those sources are available on ABYZ NewsLinks. Here you get each country’s key media, whether radio, TV, newspapers, or online. If they’re not in English, browsers like Chrome can automatically translate their stories.
While China is no paragon of press freedom, it’s delivering a remarkable amount of reliable information. Caixin, a business-media corporation, offers brilliant reporting in English via Caixin Global. Some of its best work is behind a paywall, but it’s worth subscribing (at least for the duration) to get it.
Another excellent Chinese source is Sixth Tone, with in-depth articles on the response to COVID-19 as well as other problems like the invasion of desert locusts.
As for local Chinese newspapers, they’re available via ABYZ, and translatable with Google, but they’re heavy on articles urging readers to “resolutely” carry out President Xi Jinping’s advice.
By contrast, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post publishes a wide range of well-written stories and opinion pieces on the outbreak, both in China and around the world.
South Korea has a lively free media, much of it in English, and Yonhap News Agency is the source of many of their local outbreak stories.
The Taipei Times shows that Taiwan to handling COVID-19 pretty effectively.
Japan’s the Mainichi covers the outbreak in that country very well.
And Singapore’s Channel NewsAsia has a good focus on southeast Asia.
Reliable news story aggregators
Western news sources are many.
A good aggregator is the U.K.’s NewsNow Coronavirus, which links to current stories all over the world and updates often.
Some online resources are very much worth bookmarking.
Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard delivers more information at a glance than you may want to know.
WHO has a similar dashboard, but it may slower to update than Johns Hopkins.
FluTrackers have been covering outbreaks for almost 20 years.
CIDRAP, out of the University of Minnesota, summarizes the day’s news.
Perhaps the best overall survey site is Worldometer Coronavirus. It includes nation-by-nation tables of cases and deaths as well as frequent updates from all over the world — each with a link to the news source.
The basics explained
These wikiHow pages tackle most commonly asked questions and are easy to understand, like a public health official issuing advice:
How to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Say what you will about the evils of Twitter, it is also the source of superb COVID-19 information from some of the best health and science reporters in the world, not to mention scientists and health agencies. Here’s a sampling you should follow (but also follow the people they follow).
Helen Branswell. Formerly health reporter for the Canadian Press, now writing for the Boston Globe’s STAT.
Julia Belluz. Health reporter for Vox.com.
Dr. Ian Mackay Australian virologist.
Mike Coston Veteran flu blogger with a long memory.
Dr. Maia Majumder. Faculty at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Krutika Kuppali. Global health physician.
Maryn McKenna. Excellent U.S. science writer.
Dr. Jason Kindrachuk. Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba.
Dr. Theresa Tam. Chief Public Health Officer of Canada.
It’s also helpful to follow a couple of hashtags, while ignoring some of the disinformation they get:
You’re still going to feel overwhelmed about COVID-19, but resources like these can at least give you factual information and informed analysis. This outbreak is going to be hard enough for us to get through without being lied to.
*Story corrected March 11 at 8:30 a.m.