WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 24: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on the coronavirus … [+]
Amidst the coronavirus panic, a cacophony of digital noise has erupted through online news outlets, television and social media. There is no shortage of information, but the new challenge is sifting through this material to find out what is actually truthful and relevant.
In recent weeks, politicians have worked especially hard to increase their communication to the public, and reasonably so. Communities, both large and small, have been affected by the virus at unprecedented levels.
It’s not uncommon to see politicians deliver regular updates about how coronavirus affects their respective constituents. They also inform the public about new regulations and mandates, as well as contingency plans that could be rolled out in the event that the coronavirus burden worsens.
However, far too often, it has become obvious that politicians did not seek appropriate medical counsel prior to issuing public statements, choosing instead to make their own unqualified judgements about the growing pandemic.
President Trump is a repeat offender. From January through mid-March, he made public remarks about how the coronavirus crisis was little more than hoax. He repeatedly reaffirmed that things were well under control and that COVID-19 wasn’t a truly significant threat to Americans, despite many of the world’s leading experts making statements to the contrary.
As the outbreak has hit one state after another, the biggest obstacle has been to obtain full community cooperation for staying indoors and sheltering in place. One has to wonder whether more people would have obliged had their president chosen not to deliver false messages for weeks and weeks leading up to the biggest outbreaks.
Just several days ago, in response to a small trial in France examining the use of a drug called hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, the president tweeted it could be “the biggest game changer in the history of medicine.” He followed up with “be put in use IMMEDIATELY. PEOPLE ARE DYING, MOVE FAST, and GOD BLESS EVERYONE!”
Unfortunately, this medication, along with the other medication in the trial, azithromycin, has not yet been proven to be the antidote for coronavirus. Not only are many of the aspects of the trial tenuous, but it is obvious that Mr. Trump does not have a clear understanding of the drug development process.
His comments in interviews and social media undoubtedly encouraged thousands of citizens to demand prescriptions and flock to pharmacies, causing depletion of stores. Many more were given false hopes. Only a day or two had passed after this tweet when stories surfaced that people were ingesting these medications or household equivalents, and as a result, experienced life-threatening side effects.
We all desperately want these drugs to work, but those in medicine understand this trial provides little to no evidence that they are the answer we are looking for. We need to proceed cautiously with further research, as these medications can also have dangerous side effects, especially when taken together.
Trump is not the only politician who has engaged in misleading the public. Many others denied the growing issue of coronavirus to varying degrees in the last few months. Others have perpetuated weak claims about drugs for treatment, while one even claimed that hair dryers can kill the virus.
The unfortunate consequence is that people listen to their lawmakers and political party leaders and take to heart misleading or phony press conference recommendations about medicine or healthcare. Taken as biblical truth, these messages are repeated and amplified by their respective party’s allied television networks and media outlets, and by morning, it has infiltrated into the communities and homes as common knowledge.
We need to listen to the experts. This includes large medical organizations like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the doctors and healthcare professionals on the front lines, who deal with coronavirus day to day. The public should also listen carefully to qualified scientists and researchers from reputable universities and institutions who understand epidemiology, virology and immunology. It’s time that we give some voices the megaphone, while quieting others.