COVID-19 and false dichotomies: time to change the black-or-white messaging about health, economy, SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and masks

Amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, a myriad of logical fallacies and cognitive biases have interfered with the understanding of the nuances and communication of evidence-based guidance. In particular, multiple false dilemmas have run rampant across social media with the pitfalls of black-or-white messaging and reductionist frameworks. In this article, we thoughtfully review the evidence around five COVID-19-related false dichotomies: 1) health and lives vs economy and livelihoods, 2) indefinite lockdown vs unlimited reopening, 3) symptomatic vs asymptomatic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, 4) droplet vs aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2, and 5) masks for all vs no masking. While we acknowledge that there is not one unequivocal answer, we make a call for comprehensive messaging and science-informed tailored policies that reckon with gray shades, uncertainties, and social contexts.
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