Oh. Don’t Care – Health Care Blog

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Written by KIM BELLARD

You may have read last week’s coverage of Dr. Anthony Fauci at a House Select Subcommittee hearing on the coronavirus pandemic. You know, the one where Majorie Taylor Greene refused to call him “Dr.”, told him: “You belong in prison,” and accused him – I didn’t – of killing beagles. Yes, that one.

Amidst all that drama, there were a few concerning discoveries. For example, some of the assistants of Dr. Fauci appears to be using personal email accounts to avoid potential FOIA requests. It also appeared that Dr. Fauci and others took the lab leak theory seriously, despite many criticizing it as a conspiracy theory. And, most surprising of all, Dr. Fauci admitted that the 6-meter distance rule is “kind of a new thing,” probably from the CDC and apparently not supported by any real evidence.

I do not intend to choose Dr. Fauci, who I think was a dedicated public servant and perhaps a hero. But it seems that we have lost our way in this epidemic, and that fact has often been its victim.

In The New York TimesZeynep Tufekci said nothing:

I wish these were all just examples of science advancing in real time, but they really show stubbornness, arrogance and cowardice. Instead of circling the wagons, these officials should be informing the public responsibly and openly about their knowledge and skills.

As he continued: “If the government is misleading people about how Covid spreads, why don’t Americans believe what it says about vaccines or bird flu or HIV? How are people supposed to distinguish between wild ideas and real conspiracies?”

Indeed, we may now be dealing with an outbreak of bird flu, and our studies of COVID, or lack thereof, could be important. There have already been three known cases from cattle to humans, but, like the early days of COVID, we are not actively testing or tracking the cases (although we do trace the contaminated water). “No veterinarian or public health professional thinks we’re doing enough surveillance,” Keith Poulsen, DVM, PhD, director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in an email to Jennifer Abbasi. STOP.

Echoing Professor Tufekci’s concerns about mistrust, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Katherine Wu of The Atlantic his concern about the bird flu outbreak: “without a doubt, I think we’re not that prepared.” He specifically mentioned vaccine hesitancy as an example.

Sara Gorman, Scott C. Ratzan, again Kenneth H. Rabin wondered, at StatNews, if the government has learned anything from the COVID communications failure: in relation to a potential bird flu outbreak, “… a dangerous situation.” They suggest full disclosure: “This means our government agencies should talk about what they don’t know as clearly as what they know.”

But that’s the opposite of what Professor Tufekci says was his biggest reaction to our response to COVID: “High-ranking officials were afraid to tell the truth – or even admit they didn’t have all the answers – lest they scare the public. “

New research highlights how little we knew. Eran Bendavid (Stanford) again Chirag Patel (Harvard) ran 100,000 models of various government interventions for COVID, such as closing schools or restricting gatherings. The result: “In summary, we find no patterns in the overall set of models that suggest a clear relationship between government responses to COVID-19 and outcomes. Strong claims about the impact of government responses to COVID-19 may lack empirical support. “

In the article on Mathematical News, they explain: “About half of the time, government policies were followed for better Covid-19 outcomes, and half of the time they were not.” The findings have sometimes been contradictory, some policies appear to be beneficial when tested in one way, and the same policy appears to be harmful when tested in another way.”

They warn that it is “not the broad truth” that government responses have made things worse or failed, or that they have clearly helped, but: “What is something it is true that there is no hard evidence to support claims about the effects of policies, one way or the other.”

Fifty five. All those policies, all those recommendations, all the chaos, and it turns out we might be flipping a coin.

As Professor Tufekci, Dr. Gorman and colleagues, and Ms. Wu, they encourage more honesty: “We believe that being more willing to say “We’re not sure” will help us regain our trust in science.” Professor Zufekci quotes Congresswoman Deborah Ross (D-NC): “When people don’t trust scientists, they don’t trust science.” Right now, there are a lot of people who don’t trust science or scientists, and it’s hard to blame them.

Professor Zufekci complains: “As the saying goes, trust is built in drops and lost in buckets, and this bucket will take a very long time to refill.” We may not have that kind of time before the next disaster.

Professors Bendavid and Patel suggest more and better data collection for critical health measures, where the US has a poor record (key point: bird flu), and more evaluation of public health policies, which they admit “can be thorny and often don’t happen” (but, they point out that, “subjecting millions of people to untested vaccines without strong scientific support for their benefits is also legally charged”).

As I wrote last November, Americans’ trust in science is declining, and the Pew Research Center confirms that the pandemic has been an important turning point in that decline. Professors Bendavid and Patel urge: “Comparing the strength of claims with the strength of evidence may increase the idea that the main loyalty of the scientific community is the pursuit of truth above all else,” but in the crisis – as we were in 2020 – there may not be much evidence, if any, but we still long for solutions.

We all have to admit that there are experts who know more about their fields than we do, stop trying to guess or underestimate. However, those experts need to be open about what they know, what they can prove, and what they are not sure about. We all failed those tests in 2020-21, but, unfortunately, we will be tested again at some point, and that may be sooner rather than later.

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