There is currently a global pandemic in place caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is responsible for the disease COVID-19. There is a huge amount of anxiety regarding this illness, and a fair number of questions being asked.

However, there are no data from controlled trials regarding treatment, and much advice is based on clinical experience.

Do we still need to limit answers so that they all need a published reference in this current situation? Remember also that clinical experience is still evidence, just the lowest form of evidence.

Another possibility is to give a preliminary answer with the caveat that the answer is subject to more data when it becomes available.


6 Answers 6


My thinking exactly. I've been giving a lot of latitude to quality answers that lack hard data on these questions for exactly this reason. (I believe I did that with one of your answers today.) People need information now, not next year, so for us to strictly enforce the policy on such answers would be pedantic and unhelpful, in my opinion.

My view right now is if the answer appears knowledgeable and medically sound, and particularly if it comes from a high-rep user, I'm allowing it to remain. I'll only flag it if I know supporting references are available and they were just being lazy.

I haven't discussed this with the other mods, so I don't know what their thinking is, but I'm guessing they would be of a similar mind.

Oh, and welcome back. :-) I thought maybe you'd vanished on us and your input is valued.

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    I'm sure you're aware that stackexchange has been treating its user population including CMs, mods etc poorly and I likely won't participate after this pandemic is over. Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 2:43
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    @GrahamChiu Yeah, I'm sadly aware of that. I'll be sorry to see you go. You've been a valuable contributor here.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 4:05
  • @GrahamChiu I second Carey - good to see you here. Also understand if you drift away afterwards, but hope you'll check back from time to time anyways.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Mar 17, 2020 at 20:13
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    I'd prefer if someone answered a question that includes good references, then that question not be closed during this pandemic. I put effort into these and want to fetch the references from my answers. Thanks Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 16:51
  • @GrahamChiu Pretty unlikely an answer with good references would be closed even in normal times.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 17:45
  • Ok, maybe it's me but I found it immediately using desktop but can't find it using mobile. Geez, I miss the high privs I have elsewhere! Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 19:51
  • @GrahamChiu I find that mobile access tends to be problematic for most forums. There's only so much designers can put on a screen a few cm wide and forums tend to need a lot of "things."
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Commented Mar 19, 2020 at 0:03
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    The fact that COVID related questions may also help marketing Med.SE and bring it out from Beta, should not be ignored. (It's really great that people are trying to find, study and look for their own facts, while our governments are failing.) In fact I had forgotten that this place even existed, until I was being manhandled for adding the SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 tags in the Bio.SE. (Apparently they don't care about ontology there, and decided to put everything under coronavirus.)
    – not2qubit
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 21:10
  • I doubt that this is going to help much get this site out of beta! Commented Apr 22, 2020 at 4:10

We are seeing a lot of new users on this site now asking questions. We don't really have time to train them to ask questions in the format needed for this site. I suggest giving people some latitude and if there is potential merit in a question, then editing it yourself or flag it for editing by a senior user.

In particular I'm talking about this question

How does a sanding mask compare with a disposable medical mask?

when I found this


Niran Al-Agba, a pediatrician in Silverdale, Washington, tweeted on Tuesday that someone left two boxes of respirator masks on her doorstep. She had mentioned the demand for protective equipment in an op-ed she wrote for her local paper. The masks came from a hardware store and are designed to protect workers from construction dust, but Al-Agba told CNN they do what she needs.


I think we can still give people factual information without over-representing it. I haven't been active much on MED.SE properly, but on Skeptics (and Bio SE) I've answered such questions, e.g.

  • Question on Skeptics about a "heat cure" for Covid-19; my answer included the cure methods that are being seriously looked at, mostly in clinical trials (which of course doesn't include heating people to 56C--the topic of the question.)

  • Question on Bio SE if Covid-19 can "reappear any number of times" even if it "dies out". Of course, we don't know the ultimate answer to this, but I discussed what we know, including the stated objectives of the current social distancing (etc.) measures, and a brief mention that more generally other coronaviruses are expected to jump cross-species in the future.

  • Another question there about plastic-sheet burial practices for Covid-19. Again I answered with what we know (it is WHO-recommended for VHF) and what we don't yet know (if it's warranted for Covid-19).

  • A couple of questions (Bio, Skeptics) whether Covid-19 is "made in a lab" or an intentionally released bioweapon. Answers to these, of course, can't be 100% certain, but there is a decent amount of scientific, peer-review literature on the topic already.

  • A more general question on Skeptics about mask use an respiratory illness transmission. (It had click-bait Covid-19 in its title, but the question was more general) This was quite hard for me to answer properly (so my answer was quite verbose) given the controversies in the field stemming from "effectiveness depends on other measures too", RCT (vs nothing) sparseness, low power in the more common mask X vs mask Y RCTs etc. I'd welcome more answers/comments on that question/answer actually.

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    We know that if you do too much work, you'll suffer burnout. That's why there are very few docs on this site now. I'd avoid doing a literature review but that's me. Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 8:56

It would probably help very much if the tag had some content in its wiki.


Caution with old person

This closed question can be easily generalised and I think should be tackled. There's a lot of science that can be applied to answering this

  • I reconsidered and reopened it.
    – Carey Gregory Mod
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 23:24

I have felt that the requirement for a citation does not always assure a high quality or accurate response, while no citation is also dubious.

The COVID-19 citations are of dubious quality even in major medical journals while imparting some useful information.

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