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Where’s the Evidence?

Confronting Public Panic about COVID-19


Laura Pickell
Department of Biology
Cégep Heritage College


This analysis case study uses a jigsaw activity in which students learn about characteristics of the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2. The protagonist of the case, “Malik,” is a public health nurse who has been assigned to answer phone calls from the public on a COVID-19 hotline. Students use evidence-based practices and collaborative learning to help Malik answer callers’ questions and debunk common myths about the virus circulating on social media. Each question is assigned to a small working group of students who read academic sources about SARS-CoV-2 and become experts on their topic; students then reassemble into new groups and share their knowledge with others who were assigned a different question. By the end of the activity, students will have learned about SARS-CoV-2 origins, transmission, epidemiology, pathogenicity and treatment and about the importance of evidence-based practices in public health. This case was designed for undergraduate and graduate courses of various levels related to microbiology, virology, epidemiology and general biology but could be adapted for upper-level and AP high school and two-year college courses.


  • Describe the basic structure and replication cycle of SARS-CoV-2 (and viruses in general).
  • Understand how the characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 (and viruses in general) can be used to answer questions about its origins, and how those characteristics can also contribute to transmission, pathogenicity and treatment of the infection it causes.
  • Address common misconceptions and concerns regarding the COVID-19 infection, and viral infections in general.
  • Use appropriate academic sources to seek information or inform others about public health issues related to COVID-19.


COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; coronavirus; pneumonia; virus; pandemic; misinformation; social media

Topical Areas

Science and the media

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, Graduate, Professional (degree program)



Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues)



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Epidemiology  |   Evolutionary Biology  |   Genetics / Heredity  |   Medicine (General)  |   Microbiology  |   Molecular Biology  |   Nursing  |   Public Health  |  

Date Posted


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