Busting the virus myths, round two

County Health Officer Dr. Larsen responds to common COVID-19 misunderstandings


April 9, 2020

The global pandemic is unprecedented in living memory and, as with most new things, has caused plenty of misunderstandings and myths. This week, County Health Officer Dr. James Larsen, is here to separate the facts from the fiction.

Myth: “I should wear a mask when I go out in public.”

True: The current advice is to wear a cloth mask for the protection of people around you. Though you should not leave your house if you are sick, carriers of COVID-19 do not necessarily show symptoms.

“Centers for Disease Control is now recommending using a cloth face covering, especially in areas of significant transmission. This is because it has been found that people can transmit the virus even while not showing any symptoms,” says Dr. Larsen.

“Wearing a cloth mask helps prevent the transmission of droplets from the person wearing the mask. It doesn’t protect the person from getting the virus, it’s protecting others by containing your droplets.” Dr. Larsen stresses that wearing a mask in public does not excuse you from the state directives.

To find the CDC recommendations, visit cdc.gov and navigate to the “Prevent Getting Sick” section of the COVID-19 coverage. Instructions are available to create your own cloth face covering.

Myth: “Local law enforcement is imposing fines on people who don’t have permits to be outside.”

Not True: “No, law enforcement will not ticket you for being outside. None of the state orders prevent anyone from going outside, they just encourage you to stay six feet away from others outside,” says Dr. Larsen. “Go walk your dogs and your kids! If you are self-quarantined or isolated, you can go outside, but need to remain on your property.”  

Myth: “Drinking hot water will kill COVID-19 in your throat.”

Not True: Dr. Larsen strongly advises against this home remedy. “You will burn your throat and end up needing medical attention if you do this,” he says.

Myth: “I can gargle vinegar/eat lemon slices to prevent the virus from taking hold.”

Not True: While this won’t do you any harm, it also won’t protect you from COVID-19. “If you want to do this to help alleviate a sore throat, please do. But it will not prevent the virus from migrating to your lungs,” says Dr. Larsen. “PLEASE, do not gargle with bleach - you will cause severe chemical burns and will need medical attention.” 

 Myth: “I can’t go to Spearfish/Rapid City to see my doctor or pick up prescriptions.”

Not True: Under the newest state directives, anyone who travels to another state and returns to Wyoming must self-quarantine for 14 days. However, there are exceptions for business travel and medical needs.

“Yes, you can travel out of state for medical purposes,” says Dr. Larsen.

Dr. Larsen points out that the Statewide Directive for Individuals Arriving in Wyoming from Another State or Country to Self-Quarantine says: “These quarantine restrictions do not apply to individuals traveling through Wyoming en route to another destination, volunteers responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency, citizens returning from obtaining medically necessary healthcare services outside Wyoming and parents transporting minor children for custodial purposes.” 

Myth: “I can’t do my grocery shopping in South Dakota.”

True: This one, however, is correct. “We strongly encourage sheltering at home and socially isolating. There should be no non-essential travel,” says Dr. Larsen. “This is especially important right now as we do have an active case in the county. Shop local.” Dr. Larsen points out that the same statewide directive states: “Any individual coming or returning from another state or country for a non-work-related purpose MUST immediately self-quarantine for 14 days.”

Grocery or other shopping is non-essential, he says.

“We have great local stores that can meet our needs right now. Nor should you be camping or tailgating (even if you are six away feet away from others).”


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