Accuracy in Media

CNN acknowledged the WHO’s recent confusing and conflicting guidance on preventing the spread of the coronavirus but attributed it to the volatile and changing nature of the novel coronavirus.

CNN headlined its defense of WHO, “WHO clarifies comments on asymptomatic spread of coronavirus: ‘There’s much unknown.’” The cable news network’s headline suggested that the WHO clarified previous remarks, but in reality, it contradicted its own previous remarks on asymptomatic cases spreading the coronavirus. CNN wrote, “The comments appeared to directly contradict guidance,” when the WHO did directly contradict guidance from its own office and from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

For example, the CDC said that 40% of coronavirus transmission occurs when people are asymptomatic, or before people feel sick. Contrary to what CNN claimed, the WHO’s statements directly contradicted the CDC’s findings.

This past Monday, WHO official Maria Van Kerkhove told the press that it “seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits” the virus to another person. But, the following day on Tuesday, she reversed course and said that “the majority of transmissions” occur from an asymptomatic person or a presymptomatic person to other individuals. She blamed the lack of knowledge about the coronavirus for the confusing and conflicting statements.

Kerkhove heads the WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit.

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