What went wrong with the media’s coronavirus coverage?


There seems to be a place for a media consulting firm staffed by good scientists who could serve as a liaison between the scientific community and the general press. Fauci has demonstrated how it is possible to clearly and accurately communicate the current state of the science.


I think the press did a reasonable job, though what I mean by ‘the press’, specifically excludes Fox News and any Breitbart-contaminated propaganda operation. I agree that ‘the press’ could have gone deeper describing what wasn’t known and the implications, but that’s a tough balance.

One thing about wearing masks… I do waver over whether the initial direction to forego masks was by error or by strategy. The US and much of the world remains woefully lacking in masks and I agree that given the options, it is better that medical, fire & police responders get priority. So perhaps, there was some calculation to reserve access for them. Also, there is the issue that wearing masks can create an inflated sense of safety and ultimately increase risks. And finally, social distancing and hand washing is probably much more effective than wearing masks.

Or maybe they thought masks didn’t do anything significant… Yet I can’t quite accept that.


I think they started by accepting the officials’ statements that people should not use up the supply of N95 masks, but that got mixed up with the misguided message that masks would not be effective. I think that also in the initial period of U.S. cases, the epidemiologists honestly thought that there was a good chance of isolating cases by contact tracing, and the press reflected this concern. It turned out that the large fraction of undiagnosed cases and the long period in which an infected individual could spread the virus before they themselves saw any symptoms rendered that strategy impractical. These are in addition to, of course, the torrent of rampant misinformation coming from the right wing and the many people who thought that prayer would protect them.


Contact tracing would still have worked if we had effective testing, even if there were a lot of asymptomatic cases.

South Korea uses extensive testing and tracing, and also the use of masks is widespread. They report 206 infected per 1 million people, and 6 deaths per 1 million people. For the USA those numbers are 1774 and 71, respectively ((Worldometer). Moreover, S. Korea is about 3 weeks ahead of the US in respect of first cases.

Correlation does not equal causation, but perhaps they really are on to something there?