Sophomore Erika Chan creates scientific graphic articles to fight COVID-19 misinformation

Jankhna Sura, Editor-in-Chief

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, misinformation about the virus ‒ from whether it is a hoax to the effectiveness of masks ‒ has raged across the nation. However, when Athens Drive sophomore Erika Chan noticed the harm that such misinformation caused, she decided to take action to clear up a few of the rumors. Chan created graphic articles, named “Easy Explanations,” to spread understandable explanations for complex COVID-19 related questions, using scientific facts and a comic format. 

“To be honest, I have to give my dad most of the credit on inspiring me. During the quarantined summer, we were talking about what action we can take to make a difference.  We brainstormed on how I can contribute and stumbled upon the idea to use my love for art while also helping others,” said Chan. “Coming from a family that values knowledge and truth, it was hard for me to see people say inaccurate information to mislead others which could potentially get people hurt. It made me more determined to use the idea and turn it into something that could help others and save lives.”

Beginning mid-summer 2020, Chan began to formulate her articles and reached out to Jennifer Hulsey, Athens Drive Health Science Academy director, to ask if Hulsey would be her mentor and review her articles. Hulsey agreed, excited to use her medical background to support Chan. 

“I assisted in multiple ways, mentoring, as a health care provider of 32 years and the HSCA Director of the Academy. I made suggestions on other COVID interests and resources from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC, Infection Control and NC State guidelines. I’ve also shared with my colleagues (Oracle and the Torch) and place (sic) in my monthly Pulse newsletter,” said Husley. 

So far, Chan has created six graphic articles regarding the safety concern of traditional Halloween activities, how soap works, how masks work, the effectiveness of hand sanitizers, why social distancing is effective and contact tracing (they can be found here). She has also created an Instagram account (easy_explanations) to further spread her message. 

“I hope my simplified scientific explanation and entertaining cartoons will be an easier explanation for my audience to understand and learn the facts behind these common questions,” said Chan. “I want my audience to follow the health experts’ guidance, like Dr. Fauci, and be inspired to spread these facts to others.”

Right now, Chan is a member of the Athens Drive Health Science Academy and aspires to become a pediatric doctor or a researcher on diseases. 

“Erika is amazing and has many hidden skills and aptitudes. I never thought that we have various students in eclectic and other skills of leadership, extracurricular and other capabilities,” said Hulsey. “As for Erika’s character, her personality traits are impeccable: ambitious, sincere, responsible, sophisticated, outspoken, considerate, modest, eloquent, energetic, thoughtful, obliging, sociable, assertive, attentive, outgoing, pleasant, gentle, courteous, punctual, trustworthy, cheerful, easy-going, well-behaved and calm.”

Misinformation about coronavirus is most commonly spread through social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and Instagram ‒ not primary news outlets. Examples include that one can protect themselves by injecting disinfectants into his/her body, a vaccine is available, COVID-19 was created by people and that COVID-19 is simply not real. To stay informed about the true facts of the virus, Hulsey encourages students to stay off of social media, to regularly check the CDC websites and to derive news from reputable sources. Chan also plans to continue publishing articles about coronavirus-related issues in the future. 

“This is an important fight for me because a lot of the misinformation that is being spread causes a lot of harm to people. As an aspiring doctor, I don’t want others to get hurt. If I can prevent others from hurting themselves by teaching them what is true and what is false then I’ll consider that a success,” said Chan.