I am very upset about the WHO and how they have handled several aspects of the coronavirus pandemic. I won’t focus on the politically charged concerns that they were not forthcoming about the pandemic origins early enough to prepare other nations. Instead I’m much more concerned about things like their support of Neil Ferguson’s discredited models from Imperial College of London that markedly overstated the extent and dynamics of the pandemic.
Recently, two other issues have come to the fore. The WHO was very late in their adoption of some aspects of social distancing and did not endorse wearing masks in public places until last week. In addition, several of their communications have been confused causing many people to question their guidance.
The most recent WHO issue was yesterday when they suggested that it was ‘rare’ for asymptomatic people to spread the coronavirus. Given what we now know this seemed almost absurd declaration. The majority of people are asymptomatic and in fact they have been shown to spread infection, especially in relatively closed spaces like cruise ships and prisons.
This WHO statement had caused some to question social distancing and wearing masks again! It also undermined the credibility of those who are trying to protect at-risk individuals.
Then today, less than 24 hours later, WHO convened a special news conference to walk back its comments. Calling the controversy “a misunderstanding,” Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging disease unit, said she was responding to a journalist’s question on Monday when she said asymptomatic transmission was “very rare.”
She added “I wasn’t stating a policy of WHO or anything like that. We do know that some people who are asymptomatic, or some people who do not have symptoms, can transmit the virus on.”
It was not the “intent of WHO to say there is a new or different policy,” added Mike Ryan, head of emergency programs for WHO. “There is still too much unknown about this virus and still too much unknown about its transmission dynamics.” This is a ridiculous statement at this point in time.
Almost as a rebuttal to the WHO, it was published today that 60% of the sailors on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) were now positive for coronavirus antibodies! In April, less than 25% of the crew was positive. Since only a small number of the sailors were symptomatic, this parallels cruise ship experiences and essentially proves efficient asymptomatic transmission.
The WHO needs to reckon with its failures during this pandemic as they have hurt millions of people, both medically and economically.