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Thu Mar 12, 2020, 11:29 AM

Laurie Garrett: COVID-19: the medium is the message

(Laurie is a personal friend and a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist on infectious disease)

The Lancet

In a world of polarising distrust and trade tensions, the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), both within nations and internationally, is aided and abetted by misinformation that circumnavigates the planet in microseconds. Such misinformation is not all malevolent, although its impact can be devastating. The only bastion of defence against rising public panic, financial market hysteria, and unintended misunderstandings of the science and epidemiology of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is agile, accurate, worldwide-available counter-information that takes the high moral ground and conveys a consistently science-driven narrative. Some have sought to limit misinformation about COVID-19 on social media by pressuring corporations, such as Facebook, Weibo, and Twitter, to censor bad actors—an approach that has not stopped conspiracy theorists, trolls, and liars.

If financial markets are jittery about the flow of information and disruption to production and supply chains with the global spread of COVID-19 and governments are seeking to avoid panic among their populaces, they need to invest in bastions of truth—or, at least, in those that attempt to identify information based on scientific principles. The “truth” can, and should, change as investigations and data analysis of COVID-19 proceed, but its bottom line ought to consistently reflect empiricism, a solid dose of scepticism and scrutiny, and absolute conviction in timely dissemination of life-saving research and analysis. And those bastions must resist attempts to sway their messaging to reflect institutional or political interests.

Despite numerous pleas, starting in January, 2020, to donors from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for US$675 million for the agency's response to COVID-19 and assistance to poor countries in handling their outbreaks, only $54·5 million (including $37 million in financing on March 3, 2020, from the US Government) was in WHO coffers before stock markets worldwide tumbled and financial panic went viral. That's appalling. On March 3, the World Bank Group announced the quick release of $12 billion to support COVID-19 responses in resource-scarce nations. And the International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, forecasting a dramatic slow down in global economic growth due to the epidemic, announced the creation of $50 billion worth of funds to support low-income and emerging market countries in the response to COVID-19.

Inside the USA, meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has seen its overall budget plummet from about $11·5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2018 to $7·7 billion in FY 2020. For FY 2021, Robert Redfield, the CDC's Director appointed by US President Donald Trump, is seeking a further cut to $7 billion, and the White House proposes reducing CDC funding to levels below $6·7 billion. The Redfield FY 2021 budget reduction would be partly achieved by reductions in spending on programmes for emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases, global health, and public health preparedness and response—the three areas most closely tied to the COVID-19 epidemic.

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Reply Laurie Garrett: COVID-19: the medium is the message (Original post)
brooklynite Mar 12 OP
crickets Mar 12 #1

Response to brooklynite (Original post)

Thu Mar 12, 2020, 12:49 PM

1. K&R for visibility.

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