Coronavirus Social: Match Day Online, #Patient31, Vanishing Posts

Liz Neporent

March 18, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Beginning today, Medscape Medical News will be bringing our readers a regular update on the trending topics related to COVID-19 that clinicians are discussing across social media.

Some of these topics may be relevant to your clinical practice, while others may help you address questions your patients are asking you. We've got our ears tuned to medical conversations on social media like no other news outlet. And what's coming through loud and clear today is Match Day event cancellations, a social-distancing fail that resulted in a spike of coronavirus cases, and important medical information on COVID-19 mysteriously dropping off social media.

Match Day Moves Online

As Medscape Medical News recently reported, most live events celebrating this year's Match Day on Friday have been canceled. Undeterred, the medical community is giving shoutouts to newly minted doctors on social media using the phrase #DistanceMatch Party Challenge.

Matched physicians are posting pictures, visuals, and short videos onto Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. There's a group of independent physicians who band together to offer an "Internship Pandemic Survival Kit" worth $500 to their favorite posts. They'll judge entries tagged #DistanceMatch entries at the end of the day on March 20.

In addition to giving matched residents a way to celebrate this career milestone, the campaign also serves another purpose — to underscore the importance of social distancing. By skipping the typical Match Day parties and gatherings, they hope to set an example for the rest of the world on how to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A Single Super Spreader

The hashtag #patient31 has been trending on Twitter for days. It has been referenced in tweets more than 90,000 times since March 12, according to Symplur, the healthcare social media monitoring service. So who is Patient 31 and why is she trending?

Thanks to swift action by the South Korean government, South Korea was initially able to contain its number of confirmed coronavirus cases to just 30. Enter patient 31. The 31st South Korean patient developed a fever but continued to attend church, eat at a communal buffet, and go about her regular routine, a Reuters report said.

Soon hundreds of her fellow churchgoers tested positive for COVID-19. Many continued to attend services and some attended a large funeral that authorities have dubbed a "super spreading event."

Reported COVID-19 cases quickly skyrocketed, with over 8400 cases now across the country, including at least 84 deaths. More than 80% of South Korea's cases have been attributed to the church clusters. The church was sued by the mayor of Seoul for their irresponsible behavior and South Korean officials are considering murder charges against some church leaders. The church's founder has since apologized, calling the outbreak a "great calamity."

Vanishing Social Media Posts

If you are trying to post scientifically valid information on social media for patients and colleagues, you may have noticed that your posts keep vanishing. Facebook users first started reporting earlier this week that their legitimate news posts about the coronavirus were vanishing and they were receiving notices that their posts are in violation of community standards for spreading false, fraudulent, or incorrect information, according to multiple media posts.

YouTube is having similar issues with users reporting coronavirus-related videos disappearing. And the same is also happening on Twitter, some users claim. All the companies have said they are aware of the issue and have begun working on a fix, and say posts should be reinstated shortly.

In a blog post, Google said that its YouTube and other business divisions are temporarily relying more on artificial intelligence and automated tools to find problematic content. Such software is not always as accurate as humans, which leads to errors, the post said.

Liz Neporent is Medscape's executive editor of social media and community. She has previously worked at ABC News National as well as other major news outlets. She's based in New York City and can be reached at or @lizzyfit on Twitter.

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