One of the points that I have consistently made at Shoebat.com about COVID-19 is that what makes the pandemic so dangerous is that nobody really knows anything about what this disease is. There are eight strains running about, some that seem to have killed people, some that are harmless, and no clue as to what strain is where killing who. The Los Angeles Times has alluded to this problem, saying that a lack of government data is causing problems for the public and doctors alike.
As the novel coronavirus continues to claim hundreds of lives across California, a secondary victim of the crisis is emerging: government transparency. Much of what we know about COVID-19 in nursing homes and senior facilities did not come from public agencies, but private sources: relatives, staff members and administrators.
“I want updates,” said Christina Valencia, whose grandmother was among the several people testing positive for the disease at a nursing home in Redondo Beach. “You should have a right to know how many residents are positive.”
Californians are in the dark about more than nursing homes.
Information about the availability of personal protective equipment, or PPE, is lacking, upping the anxiety of healthcare workers. Coroners aren’t releasing information about deaths. Until recently, California was not releasing information about the racial breakdown of people who were infected and killed.
Government confusion has undermined public understanding of the crisis, and has potentially compromised California’s response, some health and civil liberties experts argue. But there are few rules for what cities and counties must disclose and little direction from California’s top officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, on what must be communicated in an urgent moment.
Dr. Richard Jackson, who served as California’s state health officer under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said it’s crucial that public health agencies and political leaders keep residents informed by sharing data on local hot spots, infection rates and demographics in their communities.
“As the general principle, the public has a right to important information that would influence their own health,” said Jackson, a professor emeritus at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
Such transparency, some experts said, is essential for maintaining public trust amid the catastrophe.
“Mistrust is the enemy of good public policy and certainly good public health policy,” said Jeffrey Kahn, head of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.
With California waging a blitzkrieg campaign to fight back the fast-moving pandemic, state and local agencies are overwhelmed, and some difficulty sharing information is inevitable. Yet California’s halting release of key knowledge is alarming groups that look out for the vulnerable and disadvantaged.
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California sent Newsom a letter requesting more transparency about the pandemic’s effect on people of color and other at-risk groups.
“From what we’ve seen thus far, we know that this virus has been impacting black communities and we have no idea what is necessarily happening here in California,” said Abre’ Conner, staff attorney for the ACLU of Northern California. “We’d like to see more data now, today.”
Conner said the requirement for local data collection and release needs to come from the state, which she argues is best suited to set perimeters, instead of leaving counties and cities to make their own decisions.
“California is really behind the ball in ensuring there is comprehensive data available,” she said. “We don’t have any data, we don’t have any accountability.” (source)
This is what makes COVID-19 dangerous- that there is a lot of misinformation or even what seems to be disinformation floating about. There is no clear picture as to what is happening.
Could there be, and perhaps is there some ‘fear mongering’ with the virus? Absolutely yes.
However, there is also undeniable proof that people have gotten seriously sick and died from it in ways that they should have not, given their circumstances.
What is COVID-19? If we cannot clearly identify (a) the strains that are causing the problem to the public, (b) where these strains are, and (c) determine what the effects of this illness are, how can anything be determined to be safe?
What is more important? The serious potential of a wider pandemic- something not uncommon to human history -or economic problems resulting from a fragile, falsely-supported economy that needed to collapse anyways for the good of the country long-term?
The virus is not good, but one also must look out for public health and welfare. This is not to say abuses will not happen, but until there is a clear handle on what is going on, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.