Six days after our @Surgeon_General said this, our schools and non-essential businesses were closed and I was living under a stay-at-home order, for what he said was no worse than flu (actually he implied flu was worse).
He also said:
Americans should take comfort in knowing that we have the best team in the world to protect them from COVID-19. … No place in the world is better prepared to handle this challenge.
These are nonsensical platitudes. I can think of several places in the world that were better prepared to handle this challenge. Taiwan, for instance: Taiwan’s coronavirus response is among the best globally, CNN, 5 April 2020
Part of my job as surgeon general is to communicate the best available science to the American people — and that includes how we as a country, as communities and individuals, should act to stay healthy.
How should we act to stay healthy? By thinking of COVID-19 as no worse than the seasonal flu and by not wearing a mask in public (advice which he changed literally overnight because, I guess, a bunch of science was conducted and peer-reviewed in a matter of hours).
The problem with me realizing that our institutions are not “communicating the best available science” is that I no longer trust them. And it leaves me with a trust void. And it bleeds into and mixes with and reinforces lack-of-trust in all these other areas of life. I don’t trust studies, unless I investigate the authors and sponsors, a task that has become too arduous and time-consuming. I don’t trust Google and Microsoft and Amazon and other tech companies when they say they are doing something for my benefit. I don’t trust Big Pharma, health insurance companies, and just about every institution associated with the health and medical field. I don’t even trust photos anymore (photoshop).
Who knows – maybe it is true that the U.S. has the best team in the world to handle COVID-19, but it hasn’t been formed yet and its members are highly unlikely to get anywhere near the federal executive branch of government. He is right about what is part of his job description, but he is doing an extremely poor job. Maybe he should step down?
It IS difficult to trust institutions (not to mention companies) today. But hasn’t it always been that way? I agree that it is time-consuming to try to figure out what information is valid and come to a conclusion for yourself. In the end, all you can trust is your own experience and the experiences of people you trust and of people you don’t know who seem to have sensible views and behave rationally. But in the case of COVID-19, that may mean waiting until it affects you, which is what you want to avoid in the first place. So we have to rely on information from people/countries who have had it already and are doing research/sharing their experiences. It seems like comorbidities are a huge factor in complications and death, so by working on resolving those problems (for example, diabetes 2 and being overweight/obese) you could do something to remain healthy.
One area I would like to explore is how viruses as a whole behave. I know so little about them. My ninth grade biology teacher was a real dud.
And for musical relief, watch the video of Billy Joel’s A Matter of Trust, filmed at a time when another virus was making the rounds – one that did not require keeping 2 meters distance to stay healthy.