In her May 1, letter to the editor, Judy Holdsworth argues that we need to be skeptical about what we’re told and to consider carefully the sources of information we rely on. I agree with her. And, especially these days, I’m always eager for new sources of reliable information about COVID-19 and related issues.
For these reasons, I followed up on the five “alternative references” Ms. Holdsworth provided at the end of her letter.
I researched their backgrounds and read their articles and/or watched video interviews, looking for information about their educational and professional lives, the quality of their research, whether they were careful to distinguish facts from their opinions, and whether other sources I knew to be reliable verified the facts and opinions they expressed.
Based on these criteria, I was disappointed to find that none of these potential new sources of information was credible.
I realize that not everyone has the time to do this kind of “background check.” I’m privileged in this way. I also have enough to eat, good health insurance, and the ability to work from home. Many others are not as lucky, and I worry about them.
Those who must report to their jobs in person are at far greater risk than I am from the novel coronavirus. And their danger is increased by the spread of misinformation.
Credible evidence comparing COVID-19 with the seasonal flu shows that the novel coronavirus is far more serious.
The death rate from seasonal flu is typically around 0.1% in the U.S., but as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified to Congress, coronavirus has a mortality rate 10 times that of the flu.
However, unlike the flu, there is not yet a vaccine for COVID-19. According to the CDC, this means that while the flu affects 8% of the U.S. population every year, between 50% and 80% of the population could be infected with COVID-19.
But this estimate is limited by the fact that the U.S. currently lacks adequate testing and contact tracing. Researchers from Columbia University recently estimated that only one in 12 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. is documented.
The problems created by misinformation about COVID-19 and the lack of adequate testing and contact tracing put our collective future in danger.
If we don’t address them, then as Ms. Holdsworth asserts, “If you think life will go back to the way it was, you are mistaken.”
However, although we are all in danger, we are not powerless. We can choose to share information from reliable sources about this terrible pandemic. We can choose to hold elected officials accountable for telling us the truth about COVID-19 and enacting policies that keep us safe.
If they fail, we can vote them out of office.
Those of us who are able can choose to stay home most of the time.
We can choose to maintain social distance and to wear a mask in public to protect others and ourselves.
These choices do not “enslave” us, as Ms. Holdsworth would have it.
These choices keep us free.