THE NEW REPUBLIC – Jason is a data scientist. He’s also the parent of two young children who aren’t yet eligible for Covid-19 vaccines.
Since the pandemic began, he’s used his data skills to try to assess what, exactly, the risks are for his family. Are his children at higher or lower risk than his vaccinated parents? Is it safe to send the kids to daycare? What if their teachers are high risk?
Like many, he’s frequently been flummoxed. “I’m a frickin’ data scientist—I do this for a living—but I still have been really surprised by just how hard understanding the basic risks [can be],” he said.
(Jason asked to be identified by first name only so he could talk openly about health decisions without being harassed.)
“I can see a stat that says, OK, the death rate [for kids] over the past year has been 0.9 out of 100,000 or something like that, but what does that actually mean for my everyday living? How does that compare to other risks that I face on a regular basis? It is overwhelming trying to figure that out.”
“These errors in communication can have massive policy implications.”
In theory, these are the questions the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was set up to answer.
Yet the agency, while it continues to do vital scientific work, does not seem to be up to the immense task that has fallen on it—especially when it comes to communicating with the public.
“I wanted to throw my laptop and my phone, everything, out of the window.”
Over the past two years, the CDC has had several high-profile missteps. At the outset of the pandemic, faulty and inaccessible Covid tests meant untold numbers of people were never diagnosed—“a huge own goal,” as Jason put it.
Then the agency was hesitant to offer advice on masks, leading to persistent unsafe policies in some health systems.
The CDC was also slow to acknowledge that the virus spreads through the air … READ MORE.