Best practices for avoiding the novel corona virus are fairly well publicized, but for people who have contracted COVID-19 guidance can be harder to come by. This is partly because, to the scientists and doctors working in overdrive to get the world through the pandemic, the virus remains, in no small part, a mystery. With distinct viral strains and varying underlying conditions, patients have such vastly different experiences of COVID-19 that that each one can be a puzzle all its own. So, as the medical community gathers data, many patients are turning to one another to prevail.
One place they’re doing that is called Survivor Corps, a Facebook group founded by New Yorker and COVID-19 survivor Diana Berrent. “These are people who are at the scariest, most frightening moment of their lives, and they’re alone,” Berrent said to NBC News. For COVID-19 patients, the lack of information coupled with the required isolation can be traumatizing. Survivor Corps, now with more than 45,000 members, helps combat feelings of being alone and has become a hub of patient education.
There are, in fact, many such groups. According to Facebook, there are 4,000 U.S.-based COVID-19 support groups, with 4.5 million members. Last month, the platform hosted an event called Community Connect: Navigating COVID-19, to help give group leaders the guidance they needed for successful community organization during this crisis. (Much of the event was recorded and is available here.)
“It’s times like this when strong communities are needed most,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during the workshop. “With everything going on, I think the power of online communities in particular has really shined through and been clear.” Facebook has also come under fire for hosting a spread of misinformation, with posted conspiracy theories leading to an arson attack on Danish cell towers by people told that corona virus is spread via 5G.
It’s not just patients but also providers that are spending more and more time on these health care networks in search of support. For example, family medicine doctor Ashley Stoecker has turned to Facebook groups to learn more about COVID-19, creating a survey in order to gather data about people’s symptoms and experiences. She’s trying to "learn from the people experiencing these things on a day-to-day basis,” Stoecker explains, “to see if there are things that can help us put together a picture in a puzzle that we don't have answers for at this point.”