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10 Helpful Shows to Watch to Learn Everything About Coronavirus

Wash your hands, then watch these shows

Tim Surette

As the number of coronavirus cases increases around the globe seemingly by the minute, and everything under the sun gets canceled, it's important to remember to not panic. And the best way to do that is to get informed about the coronavirus, scientifically known as COVID-19. Instead of watching Outbreak and developing an irrational fear of monkeys, you should spend your time on something more useful, so we've put together a list of things to watch that will make you smarter about all things coronavirus.

From news programs to documentaries, from short reports to multi-episode series, there's plenty of things to watch to help you become a coronavirus expert that don't involve Gwyneth Paltrow dying in Contagion.

CNET: Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus

1. Frontline: Coronavirus Pandemic
The first episode of Frontline to cover the coronavirus pandemic sees correspondent Miles O'Brien covering the story of the United States' "Patient One," an infected man who returned to Seattle from Wuhan, China. (Note: There is now evidence that the virus was in the country before the Seattle-area outbreak.) O'Brien interviews some of the first doctors who treated the patient and the politicians who had to make the tough first decisions as coronavirus came to America. The episode also covers the politicization of the virus, and how the government's slow response could be responsible for its rapid spread even as we knew it was coming. [WATCH]

2. Coronavirus, Explained
Vox's straight-to-the-basics explainer series returned to Netflix with a special episode on the coronavirus, and in terms of getting the basic information on COVID-19, it's one of the best specials out there. With large, easy-to-understand graphics paired with straight facts, it's the best thing to watch to get that ground-level understanding of how the coronavirus works, how it spreads, and what you can do to prevent getting it. On the other hand, if you've been keeping up to date on the coronavirus, it may be a little too elementary for your needs. Still, if you are looking for a starting point to get your information, this is the first stop. [WATCH(with a Netflix subscription]

3. Frontline: Inside Italy's COVID War
The second episode of Frontline to deal with the coronavirus is a harrowing look at what happens when an outbreak gets out of control. Following an emergency room doctor in Italy's Cremona Hospital, the episode shows the true horror of an overwhelmed hospital as doctors frantically search for available hospital beds and have to make life-and-death decisions on who gets ventilators and who doesn't. For anyone who doesn't totally understand the importance of flattening the curve of infections and keeping infections at a manageable rate, Inside Italy's COVID War is all the argument you need. [WATCH]

4. Confronting Coronavirus: A PBS NewsHour Special
PBS' special unpacks the pandemic and its rapidly-changing impact. Confronting Coronavirus focuses on health precautions for individuals and the public-at-large as well as the pandemic's economic impact in the United States and across the globe. The primetime special, anchored by managing editor Judy Woodruff, includes interviews with officials, reporting from NewsHour's special correspondents, and a virtual town hall with curated questions from people across America. The special was moderated by NewsHour correspondents Amna Nawaz and William Brangham. At a time of misinformation, fear and borderline panic, this is absolutely the calm and credible information we need. Give it up for government-funded PBS everybody!

5. Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak, Netflix
The timing of this docuseries about viral outbreaks couldn't have come at a better time for Netflix or the public. Released on Jan. 22, Pandemic debuted when COVID-19 was just beginning to become a major concern as more than 500 people were infected. The six-part series covers several aspects of viral outbreaks, specifically respiratory-related outbreaks, following those on the frontline like doctors, medics, and nurses. Though there's no specific mention of COVID-19 as it didn't exist when Pandemic was being made, everything Pandemic warns us about viral threats is happening right now, making it the most current and up-to-date docuseries about pandemics available. There's a bit of a doomsday attitude to it, with scientists warning that a new flu could sweep across the globe at any moment... they just didn't know it would happen so soon. [WATCH(with a Netflix subscription)]




6. Frontline: Hong Kong: Chasing the Virus, PBS
Aside from the aspect ratio and image resolution on this Frontline segment, you'd never know this world report on the deadly SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus was from 2003 based on its content. SARS was another strain of coronavirus that was eerily similar to COVID-19; it started in China, it was highly contagious, it was contracted by close contact, and it had a high mortality rate. As fear gripped Hong Kong and the world, Chasing the Virus followed the efforts of virologists searching for a vaccine for SARS and showed the effects SARS had on one of the biggest cities in the world. The free-to-watch report may just be 14 minutes long, but it's packed with info about how viruses spread, how they're stopped, and how this won't be the last time a contagion from Asia spreads around the world. We don't have many reports from the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, but the footage used here is an ample substitute. [WATCH]

7. Nova: What We Know and Don't Know About the Coronavirus, PBS
The fine folks at PBS' science series Nova put together this short (5 minutes) explainer about the novel coronavirus, which is a mix of stock footage and epidemiologists speaking into web cams, but as far as answering your questions about COVID-19, it more than does the job. It goes over symptoms, how to prevent the spread of the disease, and even how the coronavirus got its name (as one doctor points out, it's not from the beer). This is as simple as thorough as a video explainer gets. [WATCH]


Coronavirus Update: Every TV, Movies, Sports, and Major Event Canceled So Far

8. PBS News Hour, PBS
This just-the-facts segment of PBS' news program is literally just two people -- host Hari Sreenivasan and ProPublica reporter Caroline Chen -- discussing COVID-19 and how we're responding to the viral threat. Chen is incredibly authoritative about the coronavirus and the steps taken by government, as well as the appropriate reaction we should all be having right now (don't panic... yet). One of her big sticking points with the official response to COVID-19 comes with testing, and how ineffective testing has been so far, as well as the misinformation spreading even faster than the epidemic itself. With this 14-minute conversation about the current effects of the coronavirus and Nova's five-minute primer, you could become well-informed in less time than an episode of your favorite sitcom. [WATCH]

6. 60 Minutes, CBS
The venerable news program uses a segment to focus exactly on how U.S. hospitals are working to prepare for an outbreak in the country as COVID-19 cases increase dramatically. CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jonathan LaPook discusses issues of concern with the medical staff of The Johns Hopkins Hospital as they get ready for an influx of patients. While there's a lot of repeat general information about the coronavirus, LaPook's work inside the hospital and with medical professionals offers a unique look at those who are in charge of stopping the pandemic. [WATCH]

10. 20/20, ABC
ABC's long-running news series examines the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in this episode from Monday, Mar. 16 that has the advantage of covering the new reality of a world confined to life inside. Among the topics covered are how Americans are dealing with staying inside, celebrities who have contracted the virus, and those who have tested positive and what their outlook looks like. It covers just about everything. [WATCH ON HULU | WATCH ON ABC]

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has more information on coronavirus COVID-19.