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August 20, 2022



Petra Gelbart: Czech media invite the wrong experts to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic

23.11.2020 7:43

Petra Gelbart is from a Czech and Romani family. She was born in Czechoslovakia and moved to the USA with her family at the age of 10. 

Today she teaches at a university in New Jersey on the relationship between the human brain and music, working as a music therapist and as a curator of the music section of RomArchive, a digital educational archive about Romani culture. During the spring, she contracted COVID-19 and shared her experiences with people on social media, describing the situation and measures in New York City as they unfolded. 

"My husband and I live at the epicenter of the current pandemic, not far from a hospital where dozens of people are dying of COVID-19 each week. A month ago, nobody suspected this was on the horizon. I work as a music therapist, among other things, in a hospital for the chronically ill, and while I adapted the way I was coming into physical contact with patients and the number of those contacts at the beginning of March, no special measures were introduced, such as using gloves or facemasks. In New York, just a small fraction of those infected with the coronavirus have been tested or are being tested to this day, and at that time there were allegedly just a handful of people who fell ill with it. I fell ill on 10 March, but it took me more than a week after that to be diagnosed with COVID-19, and by then I had pneumonia and trouble breathing," she wrote in an April article for Romani vod'i magazine about her personal experience going through COVID-19.  
Gelbart also follows the course of the pandemic in the Czech Republic and believes the Czech media have been interviewing the wrong experts about this crisis. "Unfortunately, the Czech media gives space to some dentist to comment on this, or to some cardiologist, to people who basically have no business talking about this. They just want publicity. Maybe they’re profiting somehow, but most qualified doctors and scientists have not been given room to speak. Only now are they being given some space when things are actually getting genuinely bad. I regret that the media here mostly cannot be believed as far as expert opinions go," she tells ROMEA TV.

She considers the information provided by the Czech Government to be provided in a chaotic way and says people here are not getting essential information. Many absurd hoaxes and rumors are circulating on social media - and not just there, as she points out.

"Whomever I ask among the scientists I know - who actually have nothing to gain, no financial profit to turn from saying something - they’re straight with me, and they say what circulates on Facebook is just garbage. People make stuff up, some get something out of it, or they’re bored and amusing themselves. The same goes for these anecdotes about, for example, many people going to be tested and getting a message that they’ve tested positive even though they never gave a sample – the same rumor was circulating in America, in those same places where thousands and thousands have died. Unfortunately, we also cannot believe these would-be 'personal' stories on Facebook," she tells ROMEA TV.

brf, LC, vhl, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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