Research suggests that inappropriate approaches to information dissemination can negatively affect containment of an outbreak, including Ebola, norovirus, SARS, influenza, and now Coronavirus. The objective of this study was to examine how COVID-19 information disseminated to the public was perceived by Californians during the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. A cross sectional study of 207 California residents was conducted to determine perceptions regarding the dissemination of COVID-19 information. A Kruskal Wallis test was conducted using SPSS 27 to examine potential differences in groups regarding access to information. Also, Chi-square analysis was conducted to determine Californian’s perceived reliability of the information presented to them early in the outbreak. A difference was found between the use of social media and online sources, the news, and word of mouth in relation to accuracy of information (p=0.05) and trustworthiness of information (p=0.05). There is also a statistical significance for sufficiency of information, timeliness of information, and trustworthiness of information compared to reliability of information (p<0.001). Of the 66% of participants who said COVID-19 related information provided during the start of the outbreak was unreliable, 75% of them reported that the information was also insufficient, 84% said it was untimely and untrustworthy. The majority of Californians were dissatisfied with how information was presented during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not providing accurate, timely, trustworthy, and sufficient information during an outbreak result in knowledge gaps, riskier behaviors, and in the case of California, may have potentially increased cases of COVID-19.
Key words: COVID-19, health information, California, trend study, epidemiology.
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