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Unproven remedies proliferate in my community, even in the face of a deadly virus

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Unproven remedies proliferate in my community, even in the face of a deadly virus

“Atencion NYC! Starting tonight, at 11.40pm nobody should be on the street! Doors and windows should remain closed as five helicopters spray disinfectants into the air to eradicate the coronavirus!”

This was the text I received from my aunt, who lives in Massachusetts, on 22 March. This was just the beginning of what became daily alerts and advice from various family members and friends, which only got more urgent as the Covid-19 pandemic went on.

“We need to consume more alkaline foods that help us raise the pH level to counteract the virus! Do not keep this information to yourself. Share with your family and friends!” That was a message from a friend in Florida; another in New York sent one shortly after: “Boil warm water, pour over an onion, and inhale it – every morning.”

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Since Covid-19 began, I’ve seen the effects of anxiety ripple through my Dominican community. Some of that anxiety has manifested in the proliferation of unfounded home remedies thought to prevent or cure the virus. While there is zero evidence that anything but a scientifically tested vaccine will prevent infection, these remedies are relied on by immigrants living in the United States, many of whom have limited or non-existent healthcare.

I’ve also seen these plant-based treatments used in addition to traditional healthcare. For example, when my dad was sick in March, his doctor told him he wouldn’t need any medicine, just rest (he had a fever, aches and difficulty breathing – all Covid-19 symptoms). But to ease his symptoms and alleviate his anxiety over his symptoms, my mother went out and got a remedio casero – the name […]

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