Biscuit has had a very stressful week. He was devastated to hear that Wendy’s had run out of hamburgers, then shocked to think that the meat packing plant that provides his favorite chew bones might close due to COVID-19. Luckily, he was much better by the end of the week as his concerns were not warranted. This may be the subtitle of this week’s worst ideas on COVID; unwarranted fears.
1) Overstating food shortages. Not only was Biscuit upset but people everywhere became concerned as reports of food shortages proliferated. In contrast, actual shortages were few. Most spot shortages were due to distribution problems. The same pictures of empty meat coolers gained great coverage though, being shown continually on multiple networks.
2) Reporting a single poignant death over and over again. The death of the young person or physician is a true tragedy; however, repeating this report every day as if it is a new death just serves to panic people.
3) Undo optimism on vaccines. Some prominent scientists are suggesting we may have a vaccine in a few months, by September. While this may make people feel better, it won’t happen. For those that want more details, Derek Lowe writing in Science Translational Medicine outlines the issues with COVID vaccines. Counting on a vaccine in the fall actually hurts preparedness since other steps for mediation may not be taken.
4) Everything being “Breaking News.” On the NBC nightly news on Thursday night the first 20 minutes of stories were all labeled “Breaking News.” Breaking news used to be something truly notable. Now it’s just two words trying to add a degree of urgency that seems out of proportion to the information provided.
5) Arresting people after providing confusing plans for reentering the economy. Hey politicians, it is not appropriate to provide confusing recommendations and then arrest individuals who take it upon themselves to try to earn a living. This poor woman is even wearing a mask! Funny, no one arrested the mayor of Chicago after she got her hair cut during shelter at home.
5) Snow on Mother’s Day while sheltering in place. Welcome to Michigan. Ugh.
6) Guns in the COVID discussion. Both political parties in Michigan had gun toting advocates in the Michigan State House. Armed guards have gone about breaking up crowds and threatening individuals. The last thing we need in the re-entry process is people with guns who don’t seem reluctant to use them.
7) Focusing on new COVID-19 infections after the end of shelter in place. The concern should not be about new infections, which definitely will occur since the virus has not gone away. The focus should be on avoiding serious illness and deaths. By protecting those who are at risk for serious disease, deaths can be avoided even in the presence of new infections.
8) This week’s worst idea is non-reviewed science. Having scientific papers publicly available without peer review created an impression of valuable and credible information among non scientists, however, these papers too often had overblown conclusions not justified by data. Many of these “publications” had titles that appeared to be looking for attention more than for scientific advancement. It is clear that the greatest value of peer review may be saving authors from their own excesses and saving the public from misinformation.