PROPOSAL: Can the dead spread Coronavirus?

Doctor in personal protective equipment
Image: Simon Davis/DFID : Some rights reserved

Story topic and angle

COVID-19 is an unprecedented pandemic event with new information presenting itself daily from the Australian Government and health organisations. The rapid-fire speed with which news is reported means it is more liable to contain misinformation, causing panic and distortion of facts within the Australian public.

Except when medical misinformation is reported, an even greater problem is posed to the population.

On April 13 2020, Buzzfeed News reported the first case of COVID-19 contracted from a deceased body to a medical examiner, referencing an article in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine. The article was widely shared, and the story run across multiple smaller news sites.

Ten days later, a corrigendum was issued stating the original letter had been misinterpreted, and that the original source made no claims of virus transmission from deceased persons.

I propose to write a feature article which seeks to address misinformation surrounding COVID-19 transmission between deceased persons and the living by outlining the expert consensus regarding risks to mortuary and medical personnel, and funeral attendees in an Australian setting.

Publication and target user group

Across Australia, COVID-19 deaths are at 83 and counting, with those aged between 70 – 89 constituting the majority. As at 26 April 2020, New South Wales has seen 34 of those deaths.

As morbidity from the virus is a pertinent issue for older Australians, and the children of those Australians, this article will be aimed at the readership of The Guardian who fit this target demographic.

Additionally, The Guardian’s coverage of COVID-19 has been extensive and well-researched in its reporting, in keeping with the spirit of my proposed story.

Information sources

This article will draw on multiple sources including:

Ideas for multimedia, hypertext and interactivity

This article will include multimedia, hypertext and interactivity, including:

  • Hyperlinks to all sources used
  • Photographs of pathology testing and from inside a mortuary
  • Infographics on COVID-19 statistics in Australia
  • An embedded video of the expert interview with text overlay for the hearing impaired. Standout quotes will also be incorporated within the article’s text to provide an additional visual element to improve scannability for readers
Pathologist looks into microscope
Image: Oktay98 : Some rights reserved
About Sally Smythe 3 Articles
Current Master of Media Practice student at University of Sydney. She enjoys writing, true crime, and discussing if it's possible to separate art from the artist.

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