People are Confused About COVID Guidance?

 Really, Folks? The Guidance Has Been Pretty Consistent. Changes Match the Changing Virus

The Snivel We Hear

 OK, snivel is admittedly a snarky word to start off this conversation, but it really does seem to me that a lot of people, the media in particular, is regularly crying out that there is so much guidance from so many sources, always in a state of flux. As a result, people are confused and don’t know what is expected of them.

To which I say, Poppycock. Yes, there is a lot of information out there, but the matter of confusion seems well overplayed to me. Surely the average American is clever enough to follow what needs to be done personally.

This excludes the nut jobs who still resist what is now well documented science and common sense to mask up, get shots, etc. There is not much the rest of us can do for them or to them at this point. The virus has the lead on dealing with these folks. The rest of us can figure this stuff out, and for the most part, are doing so just fine, thank you.

There Was a Problem in the Trump Administration

 Admittedly, there was a serious communication problem during the Trump administration. Several government agencies put out communications on something like a pandemic, but the CDC generally has the lead and the credibility. The Trump team damn near destroyed that.

Political appointees modified scientific reports and website output, on political whims. People began to distrust our most important agency in a time of crisis. The president also decided that he should do daily press conferences to establish what was being done and needed to be done.

I watched almost all of those press conferences. I kept checking the TV schedule to see if perhaps I had stumbled into episodes of Saturday Night Live. These were surreal.

I felt the pain of medical professionals sharing the stage with him, trying to deal with Trump rambles on high intensity light, bleach, etc. After watching the first couple of these, I knew the rest of what was needed (distribution plans, national logistics priorities, testing, etc. had no hope of happening. It was obvious that hundreds of thousands were going to die needlessly.

But the Guidance Has Been Remarkably Clear and Consistent

 From before its first day in office, the Biden administration cleaned up the communications mess, speaking out during the transition and empowering scientific and medical authorities to speak for the new administration.

The basic guidelines have been consistent from the earliest days. Internal elements within the broad guidance have changed as the science developed, but in logical ways. To wit:

  • Wear a mask any time you are around people, especially indoors. Masks were not available at first, and over time we have learned that KN95/N95 masks are best, surgical masks are next best, and cloth masks are in last place. But always the message has been, mask up as best you can.
  • Keep some space between you and others. From the first days, we have been advised to space out from each other, not to crowd. No there.
  • Wash Up. Good advice anytime, right? We have learned overtime that transmission of the virus by touch is not much of a threat, but the guidance has continued to recommend better safe than sorry – wash up or sterilize as you can.
  • Get shots – all of them. We have consistently been advised to get whatever shots we can when we can. Basic series, then boosters. Yes, some confusion over efficacy of one shot over another and when the right time is for boosters, but in general getting clarification from many reliable sources has always been available.
  • Pay attention to symptoms. The list of symptoms prevalent at any given time are widely circulated and only a mouse click or phone call away for any needed clarification. If in doubt, get a checkup. Home test kits are coming online, just another tool in the Pay Attention Toolbox.

That’s it. Five pretty simple guidelines. Really not too complex, is it?

Welcome the Changes That Are Coming in Guidance

Yes, there have been changes and updates within these five guidelines from time to time, but that is a good thing. We are fighting a life-threatening disease that is a new threat. As knowledge is gained, it is applied and shared. I would be more worried about the opposite. If guidance did not evolve, that would tell us no one was doing the hard work of figuring out this thing and trying to get ahead of it.

That we did not know everything on Day One is not much of a surprise. That on occasion, there are stumbles (the very early talk about masks would not be needed, for example) is to be expected in such a situation. There have been remarkably few such problems.

End in Sight?

What has exhausted people has been the roller coaster ride to end this thing. It looked possible to bottle it up last Summer, until people started politicizing inoculations. We fell behind in the protection curve and in swept the Delta variant.

We began to make some progress there, although the antivaxxers continued (some of this should be prosecuted, in my humble view. People who knew better lied and people died. Still are – about 1700 every day).

People got hopeful for the holidays. Then the latest variant arrived, sweeping through the country like wildfire, including breakthrough infections (mostly mild, gratefully). People wonder if they will ever see normal again – they hesitate to hope. We all wonder what the long term effects will be on people.

But several indicators are promising, if not to banish this thing to at least bring it to an endemic, very manageable stage, perhaps in the very near term. Will that happen? Who knows? I do believe a lot of exceptionally bright and dedicated people all across the country are doing everything they can to make it happen.

In the meantime, I plan to thank and encourage them, and follow the advice We’ll get there yet.

Stay safe, follow the guidelines.

        Bill Clontz

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4 replies to People are Confused About COVID Guidance?

  1. I totally agree that there really is not much to be confused about–mask, distance, get your shots, wash your hands. Perhaps the confusion has come with the suggestions on quarantine if you do test positive. At one point it was 14 days, then 10 and now, in some instances, they are saying 5 days. Maybe more clarity is needed on how long to stay out of circulation. But I don’t think we would be as worried about the quarantine days if we would just follow those unconfusing steps–mask, distance, get your shots, wash your hands. Oh, one more question…why oh why are people so confused about how to wear a mask? Cover your mouth AND your nose, friends!

    • An excellent point on the quarantine. I failed to mention that, and it has indeed been confusing for people. Its pretty clear if it happens to you and you are informed at the time how long to isolate, but as a menu it surely does look confusing.

  2. First of all I must state I agree completely that common sense and looking for guidance from scientific experts is a solid plan for personal health and safety. However, please do not underestimate two very powerful factors that affect us all. One is the absolute politicization of scientific evidence of any kind, not just of health and safety precautions but of scientific evidence itself. The second is the desire for journalists to print something, anything, that will trend and get noticed.
    Look no further than the first article result in a search for coronavirus confusion found in the Washington Post titled:
    Which mask? What test? Covid’s latest surge spreads an epidemic of confusion
    By Marc Fisher, Christine Spolar and Deborah Lynn Blumberg
    January 11, 2022

    The problem with misinformation and confusion on the subject in my humble opinion is any idiot now has a forum to reach a large number of people. In addition there are plenty of easily led, uneducated, mentally vulnerable people looking for confirmation bias. I unfortunately live in a rural, right leaning, religious fanatic filled, election denying, MAGA enthusiast area.
    I have a family member that was vaccinated begrudgingly who tested positive yesterday and sees that as evidence vaccines are useless and another that told me God told them not to get vaccinated and is willing to lose employment rather than “be a sheep” and get vaccinated. Make no mistake they are among us and in numbers that will continue to drive new varients and extend the need for all of us to wonder if we are doing all we can.

    • Certainly true that a lot of people have tried to politicize health and safety issues. Any half hour on the Fox network provides ample evidence of that. Unfortunate to say the least.

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