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Conflicting COVID Messages Create Cloud Of Confusion Around Public Health And Prevention

Regina Fargis didn’t know what to do.

Fargis runs Summit Hills — a health and retirement community in Spartanburg, South Carolina, that offers skilled nursing, activities and communal meals for its residents, most of whom are over 60, the highest-risk category for coronavirus complications. In South Carolina, more than a hundred new cases were emerging daily. So she took precautions: no visitors, hand sanitizer everywhere and regular reminders for residents about the importance of social distancing.

For a time, it worked. Many similar facilities were hit hard by the virus, but Summit Hills remained COVID-free. Summit Hills’ first cases didn’t emerge until mid-June. Three residents and four employees have now tested positive and are being quarantined. For months, though, Fargis was able to protect her residents.

Still, even under the best circumstances, she couldn’t prevent one thing. By mid-May, two residents had become convinced that the COVID-19 death count —

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