It’s driving me nuts. We are in a serious pandemic, and authorities everywhere are acting as if the best strategy is to pretend we’re already back to normal, full speed ahead, don’t deviate from the pretense that everything is just dandy. Yet…
The delta variant of the coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox, according to an internal federal health document that argues officials must “acknowledge the war has changed.”
Public schools are opening in a few weeks, as is my university. No one is acknowledging that the war has changed. Instead, we’re all planning to march right into the maw of the pandemic.
My prediction: they’re all going to be frantically backpedaling by October. I fully expect my school to shut down in-person classes by the middle of the semester.
I could be wrong, and I would be very happy if I were — we could have a gentle, delightful Fall with brightly colored leaves and soft snows and a world that embraces love and peace, and all the homeless would be given homes, and all the sick cared for, the QAnoners could all wake and look at each other and say “What are we doing?” and go home to their families, and peace could reign across all the lands. Sure. It could happen. But only if we struggle to make it all happen. And that’s what I’m not seeing, a will to change and do what needs to be done.
The CDC isn’t helping, either. They keep dithering. Recommendations change at the first breeze of new data, and change back a few weeks later. There is a difference between being responsive to new information, and being too quick to accept new suggestions in the face of uncertainty; it’s also important to build the public trust with consistent messages.
The document strikes an urgent note, revealing the agency knows it must revamp its public messaging to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold.
It cites a combination of recently obtained, still-unpublished data from outbreak investigations and outside studies showing that vaccinated individuals infected with delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated. Vaccinated people infected with delta have measurable viral loads similar to those who are unvaccinated and infected with the variant.
Right. So the appropriate message from the very beginning should have been conservative, assuming the worst and establishing a consistent policy. I want to hear the words, “It wasn’t as bad as we feared, now that we’ve got solid evidence from three months of hard science we can think about easing some restrictions,” rather than “Oh, I guess we shouldn’t have told everyone to have orgies, you’ve all got three months to live.”
Be decisive for a change. I wrote to my university president urging her to take a stronger stand, but I’ll make another bold prediction: she’ll dither. It’s all the rage.
Important qualifier to the CDC’s “ebola” comment:
Saying that the Delta variant is more contagious than Ebola is like saying your car is faster than a '76 Ford Pinto.
Of course it's faster. Everything is. The Pinto isn't famous for being quick, it's famous because it'll kill you.
Likewise Ebola. pic.twitter.com/PPBVRxoU9S
— Carl T. Bergstrom (@CT_Bergstrom) July 30, 2021
You know, it’s becoming really obvious that the CDC is very bad at science communication, at a time when we need the science communicated effectively.