Thursday, December 24, 2020

Doing Better, Much Better Next Time

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Epidemiologists are still stunned bymanagement  the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharon Begley, writing for STAT, quotes one, Stephen Morse (Columbia University) who told her, “'I’m still getting over my shock at how badly this was handled' who helped create an international network to detect and monitor disease outbreaks. 'After all the work and all the exercises everyone did, it’s heartbreaking to see how badly the ball was dropped.'”

Eleven experts were asked by STAT how to avoid another major screw-up to COVID-19 (and other threats in the future) again. I include only the major headings. For the discussion following each, please read Begley's (always fine) reporting. Some of them are likely to be of more interest to you than others, e.g., for me being smarter about social  distancing and doing a better job in minority and low income communities are two that I looked at immediatel but in the end all of them were of interest and I started at the top and went down the list..

--Prioritize early warnings.
--Pay attention to small numbers.
--Act fast.
--But act fast strategically.
--Do a way better job in minority and high-poverty communities.
--Don't hide the truth or pretend to have more knowledge than you have.
--Do social distancing smarter.
--Take mild cases seriously.
--Beef up the Strategic National Stockpile.
--Don't expect patients to figure out isolation on their own.
--Get serious about staying on top of the virus.
--Stay humble, be flexible.
--Resist magical thinking.
--Communicate better.

Make no doubt about it: There will be a next time or next times.  

We also need a president and an administration with belief in science, not one who rejects almost all heard or told and one with some humility in the face of the unknown and having to make decisions under conditions of uncertainty. 

It was Victor Hugo who wrote that "Science says the first word on everything but the last word on nothing." 

The quote is from his Intellectual Biography. For context it was preceded by "Science to-day has no more said the last thing about comets than has the science of yesterday." This acknowledges empirical science, one based on evidence which changes as more is known, as instruments improve, etc.  It is the policy makers who must use the best evidence available and listen to scientific advice, incorporate it as they make life-changing decisions not belittle knowlege of knowledge-makers most of whom are intellectually humble.

No comments:

Post a Comment