We usually try to stay out of politics in this Health Options column, but many COVID-19 health issues are being treated like a political football while ignoring well-established science. Making medical decisions based on personal beliefs and wishful thinking has increased the loss of life to about 200,000 Americans to date. With proper public health communications based on science, many lives could have been saved.
Question: Why has the U.S. had more COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita than any other country?
Answer: As early as Jan. 28, the president chose to prevent U.S. citizens from getting the scientific facts needed to protect themselves from the new coronavirus and prevent the disease from spreading. For months he also prevented virology and public health experts from providing the public with needed health information. Even now we still have unqualified government appointees, some political leaders, president-friendly media and QAnon loudly contradicting specialized medical scientists in apparent attempts to downplay the risks associated with COVID-19.
Although the president indicates he hid the critical information to prevent panic, this seems unlikely based on his divisive, inflammatory rhetoric regarding law and order issues.
Q: Isn’t science just another opinion?
A: No. Science is a systematic way of developing knowledge-based testable observations and predictions rather than just using intuition or personal belief. Science attempts to be as unbiased as possible. Each individual study may not be perfect, but a flawed study is soon displaced by multiple related research studies that might disprove it. The steady development of scientific knowledge helps us understand our world and make informed decisions on all aspects of life, including our health.
Q: Why has political opinion had more impact than scientific facts?
A: Too much of today’s political marketing consists of both repetition and lies, based on Nazi Joseph Goebbels’ basic law of propaganda and brainwashing, “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.” As a cautionary statement, Franklin D. Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.”
Q: What can you do to protect yourself best?
A: Based on countries that have been successful in virus control, wearing face masks works. Continue to wash hands frequently and maintain an appropriate social distance. Do not get conned into believing that herd immunity is beneficial. Sweden and Great Britain have both stopped herd immunity due to dire consequences.
Because of political influence, it becomes difficult to determine who to trust as new information becomes available, especially regarding vaccines. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is a knowledgeable and trusted health professional and a refreshing voice of reason among political distractions.
Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S., and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S., are nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Dobbs also works with University Health Services.