Back to home

Public Health

How do I talk to family members who do not believe in the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic?

One of the unique things about the COVID-19 pandemic is that it showed how different everyone is from each other, especially in terms of where we get our information and how we process new and complicated issues, which is in this case a worldwide health crisis.

Explaining the severity of COVID-19 can be a difficult conversation. It is important to know that everybody has a different perspective and different ways of coping with uncertain and stressful situations.

We hope our conversations can be aligned with empathy and with the purpose to educate. Here are some tangible facts that you may want to share with family members.

  • As of December 19, 2020 the number of COVID-19 cases has risen to over 17.3 million and 312,636 deaths. 1 in every 1,100 Pacific Islander Americans have passed away and 1 in every 1,925 Asian Americans.
  • Filipino’s make up about 4% of US nurses, and roughly 30% of the nurses who passed away due to COVID-19, were Filipino. This global pandemic is hurting our own people. A website called Kanlungan memorializes Filipinos who have lost their battle to COVID-19 while serving as a frontline healthcare worker.
  • Additional sources such as the LA Times have shared that out of the 48 Filipino Americans with confirmed cases of COVID-19, 19 have died (July 2020).
  • The UC Davis Bulosan Center for Filipinx Studies also revealed that Filipinos are more at risk because of conditions such as undocumented status, exposure for health workers, poverty and economic insecurity, preexisting respiratory conditions and lack of health insurance.

Although the data is alarming, we do not want to spark anxiety on the community, but rather educate one another on the realities of COVID-19 so we can take the necessary steps to stay safe.

Empathy and validation are most important in communicating, especially on topics that tend to be very divisive. One of the things you can do is try and hold a "dialectical" perspective, which means to not be one-sided - thinking that a perspective is "better" than the other, but that there's "truth" or reasoning behind both sides.

This means listening to the truth behind the intense fear and distrust some of your family members about things they don’t understand or like about the way COVID-19 is being handled by authorities. Maybe they have so much fear and distrust because they have never received the proper medical care they needed whether they have been economically disenfranchised or maybe even discriminated against when seeking medical treatment.

Validate and try to come from a perspective of openness and try understanding that your family member doesn't believe in the severity of COVID for a reason (religion, childhood background, etc.) and help guide/educate them towards yours. Try finding some middle ground and hopefully ease them into taking some aspects of it seriously.

The most important thing is not to win an argument against family members, but to arrive at a level of agreement that we will take care of each other and keep everyone safe, especially those who are at risk of catching severe illness from COVID-19.

Resources to Share

Sources: CDC, AMP Research Lab, CNN Health, LA Times

This article was written and edited by the Tayo editorial desk and has been reviewed by an independent panel of subject matter experts.

Learn more

Related articles