Onions Don't Cure COVID: Ontario students find a way to combat COVID-19 misinformation

Elisabetta Bianchini
·3-min read
COVID-19 misinformation infographic from Onions Don't Cure COVID (Onions Don't Cure COVID)
COVID-19 misinformation infographic from Onions Don't Cure COVID (Onions Don't Cure COVID)

No, putting an onion in the corner of your room won't cure COVID-19 and a University of Guelph anthropology student is working to combat the misinformation around the global pandemic.

For Lauren Chang, from Markham, Ont., Onions Don't Cure COVID started off as a research project, going on to receive a grant for her work from the #RisingYouth program. Now, a group of Canadian university students are creating infographics and videos to point people, particular individuals in immigrant communities, towards COVID-19 facts and not myths.

"I think that especially in immigrant communities and especially with the amount of information that we're all getting at all times, a lot of times information from trusted public health sources are less accessible to people who are more comfortable getting information in their own languages, in their own communities," Chang told Yahoo Canada.

"So we're basically trying to provide tools for people to be able to make their own decisions and sites for some trusted information if people have questions about what's going on."

Onions Don't Cure COVID is trying to offer information in as many languages as possible. Currently, the infographic has been created in English, Chinese, Bangla and Japanese. The text has been translated in Spanish, Korean, Hindi, Asante Twi, Slovak, Vietnamese, Urdu and Czech as well.

In addition to providing accurate information around COVID-19 in a way that can be disseminated to and understood by different communities, Chang also recognizes that people from immigrant communities have important information to share as well. She gives an example of her community reacting quicker to masking and sanitizing because there were connections to China and they were aware of how severe COVID-19 was becoming sooner.

"I think there is really helpful information in [these] transnational connections," Chang said.

"Our team is mostly from the GTA [Greater Toronto Area] and we're all from different immigrant communities so that's been really good because you can get a much broader perspective based on what everyone's been experiencing during the pandemic."

The group's efforts are focused on using social media, like Instagram, to reach out to youth in particular.

"We're really trying to reach out to youth because we think youth have a really important role at this time, because they're really able to connect public health with their own communities," Chang explained.

In terms of any difficulties, she identified that keeping up with the ever-changing information has been a challenge, particularly as the group works to create messaging around vaccine education. Chang said early on in her process, changes in messaging around masking were significant. She added that although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, changes impact public trust and where people are going to get information they trust.

The group's main goal is to give people the tools to identify factual information around COVID-19, not necessarily just telling them what is correct.

"In my opinion, for example, something like cutting up an onion and putting it somewhere in your house, if you feel safer doing that sort of thing and you're following public health guidelines, I don't see any problem in that," Chang explained.

"So we're just trying to get people to sort of think about what the information is telling them to do and whether or not that goes against public health protocol. I think that the beauty of living in a multicultural society is that we all come in with these different perspectives, with these different cultural traditions, so it's important that we also respect that while emphasizing the importance of following public health protocol."