Don’t Ridicule Virus Science Just Because It’s Not Perfect

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

This is from Wesley Smith over at NRO:

Well, well. The World Health Organization now says asymptomatic people with COVID infection rarely spread the disease.

Pardon my whiplash. So, now that we know COVID is not as dangerous as was initially thought, will those calling for mandatory vaccines and mask-wearing retract their advocacy?

I’m not especially picking on Smith here. This is just an example of an attitude that I see all too often: Ho ho ho, they changed their mind, they must be idiots. And sure, I get how frustrating it is that every bit of advice we get seems to be tentative and subject to change. But SARS-CoV-2 is a brand new virus and it acts in some very unusual ways. The science is moving at light speed right now, and as more cases are studied and more countries are compared we keep learning more. It’s inevitable that advice from the experts is going to be contingent for at least many months, and maybe longer.

CDC and WHO have made some mistakes, but they’re still the best advisors we have on the epidemiological side of things. Regardless of how the virus is spread, a vaccine is still the only way we’ll truly get rid of it, and mask wearing still seems to be important even if we don’t know precisely why.

So settle down, folks. Researchers are compressing what would normally be years of work into a few months. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

POSTSCRIPT: On the other hand, apparently WHO was vague about the difference between asymptomatic (no symptoms now or ever) and pre-symptomatic (no symptoms yet, but there will be eventually). The former is only 20 percent of all cases, so it doesn’t matter much how widely these folks shed virus. What matters are the pre-symptomatic cases. And how can you tell them apart anyway in real time? This appears to be a pretty horrible job of public communication from WHO, and they certainly deserve plenty of criticism for that. Keep wearing those masks, people.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate