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COVID, 2 years later: Lessons learned from a global pandemic

Medical personnel wear facemasks and display instructions for people arriving in their vehicles for COVID-19 testing on April 8, 2020, on the first day of testing at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine in south Los Angeles.(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
Medical personnel wear facemasks and display instructions for people arriving in their vehicles for COVID-19 testing on April 8, 2020, on the first day of testing at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine in south Los Angeles.(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Listen to a web extra featuring Dr. Celine Gounder here.


Fact Check: A guest on this program misstates that the U.S. ‘accept[s] 100,000 flu deaths per year.’ The actual U.S. death rate, according to the CDC, has ranged between 12,000 to 60,000 in the past decade.  


Across two years, the COVID pandemic has acted as a mirror, reflecting back truths about this country we’d otherwise find convenient to ignore.

And one of those truths? American leaders are not good at leading conversations about public health.

“There’s a temptation to oversimplify. And there’s a temptation to think that you can tell people things in the near term that turn out not to be correct and that they won’t remember it in the long term,” Richard Tofel, a visiting fellow at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, says.

“And both of those preexisting beliefs about how to communicate with people turn out to be deeply, and at great cost, incorrect.”

Today, On Point: High quality information. Building trust. And lessons for leaders who will face the next pandemic.

Guests

Richard Tofel, founding general manager and former president of ProPublica. Distinguished visiting fellow at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. (@dicktofel)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst. (@JackBeattyNPR)

Related Reading

The Atlantic: “How Is America Still This Bad at Talking About the Pandemic?” — “With cases decreasing, well more than 65 percent of the eligible population inoculated with effective vaccines, and new COVID therapeutics coming to market, the United States is in very different circumstances than it was in early 2020. Life is currently feeling a little more stable, the future a good deal more clear.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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