This Is What Happens When You Can’t Trust Official Coronavirus Advice
The U.S. has formal and informal coronavirus guidance — and it’s confusing and dangerous
If trust is the currency of leadership, then the United States is running on overdraft — and it’s costing American lives.
Countries that have successfully suppressed Covid-19 have done so in different ways, but there’s one thing they tend to have in common: high levels of trust between citizens and the government officials in charge of combating the virus.
South Korea’s success, for example, has been largely credited to the work the country has done to build a culture of political accountability after past pandemics, which has been important for getting public buy-in for lockdown and distancing measures. In Greece, Sotiris Tsiodras, the Greek Health Ministry’s spokesperson and an infectious disease expert, gives daily briefings and, through empathy and data-sharing, has gained widespread trust and affection. A recent poll declared him the most popular Greek today.
President Donald Trump, on the other hand, contradicts and outright criticizes American scientists who have experience in responding to pandemics. He recently lambasted the guidelines to reopen schools developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and he rarely allows scientists at the organization to speak to the public. The U.S. is also pulling its funding of the World Health Organization, the implication being that the U.S. believes the organization has mishandled the response. For those who like President Trump, these moves might be considered accountability for scientists that mishandled the epidemic and have put Trump’s presidency at risk. For critics, it’s yet another sign of the White House’s incompetence and blame-shifting in responding to the pandemic. Data shows that over 56% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s response to the pandemic — neatly tracking overall disapproval of his presidency as a whole. Taken together, there’s a deep mistrust that leaders at the highest levels of the U.S. government can keep people safe.
Such contradictions pop up locally as well, where political leaders allow for — and implicitly encourage — public behavior that they personally avoid or…