The consequences of this testing shortage, we realized, could be cataclysmic. A few days later, we founded the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic with Erin Kissane, an editor, and Jeff Hammerbacher, a data scientist. Every day last spring, the project’s volunteers collected coronavirus data for every U.S. state and territory. We assumed that the government had these data, and we hoped a small amount of reporting might prod it into publishing them.
Not until early May, when the CDC published its own deeply inadequate data dashboard, did we realize the depth of its ignorance. And when the White House reproduced one of our charts, it confirmed our fears: The government was using our data. For months, the American government had no idea how many people were sick with COVID-19, how many were lying in hospitals, or how many had died. And the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic, started as a temporary volunteer effort, had become a de facto source of pandemic data for the United States.
Author(s): ROBINSON MEYER and ALEXIS C. MADRIGAL, THE ATLANTIC
Publication Date: 15 March 2021
Publication Site: Defense One
Five key fallacies and pitfalls have affected public-health messaging, as well as media coverage, and have played an outsize role in derailing an effective pandemic response. These problems were deepened by the ways that we—the public—developed to cope with a dreadful situation under great uncertainty. And now, even as vaccines offer brilliant hope, and even though, at least in the United States, we no longer have to deal with the problem of a misinformer in chief, some officials and media outlets are repeating many of the same mistakes in handling the vaccine rollout.
Amidst all the mistrust and the scolding, a crucial public-health concept fell by the wayside. Harm reduction is the recognition that if there is an unmet and yet crucial human need, we cannot simply wish it away; we need to advise people on how to do what they seek to do more safely. Risk can never be completely eliminated; life requires more than futile attempts to bring risk down to zero. Pretending we can will away complexities and trade-offs with absolutism is counterproductive. Consider abstinence-only education: Not letting teenagers know about ways to have safer sex results in more of them having sex with no protections.
Author(s): Zeynep Tufekci
Publication Date: 26 February 2021
Publication Site: The Atlantic