The Exchange

Commentary and Observations from
the Medical Front Lines

You're Darned if You Do, You're Damned if You Don't

You're Darned if You Do, You're Damned if You Don't

Sorry, but I believe we are past the point of being worried about scaring people about the novel coronavirus 2019, now simply COVID-19 (in various forms of capitalization). That ship has sailed. People are starting to get scaredjust look at the stock market. But should we tell people to prepare?

Let's start with should we have the public prepare, and why I specifically chose the title above: "Darned if You Do, Damned if You Don't." That's not a typo; it's intentional. The idea was communicated by the expert risk communication team of Jody Lanard and Peter M. Sandman in an email to Virology Down Under, a blog written by Ian M. MacKay, PhD.

They were very clear in saying, "you're only darned if you warn about something that turns out minor. But you're damned, and rightly so, if you fail to warn people about something that turns out to be serious." And a pandemic has the potential to be very, very serious. They are not alone in believing that we are past the tipping point.

There is a difference between the current policy of containment, which stops the spread of the disease but will eventually fail, and mitigation, which will slow spread, and hopefully lead to the eventual dying out of COVID-19.

Mitigation means utilizing the CDC interim guidance for business issued earlier this month (which received minimal press coverage), and having sick people stay home. Strategies to mitigate COVID-19 will involve not just handwashing, but so much more. It might mean cancelling mass events, such as sporting events and movies, as well as placeslikely restaurants, and, of course, schools and colleges.

Lanard and Sandman make other specific recommendations:

  • Try to get a few extra months' worth of prescription meds, if possible.
  • Think through now how we will take care of sick family members while trying not to get infected.
  • Cross-train key staff at work so one person's absence won't derail an organization's ability to function.
  • Practice touching our faces less. How about a face-counter app like the step-counters so many of us use?
  • Replace handshakes with elbow-bumps (the "Ebola handshake").
  • Start building harm-reduction habits like pushing elevator buttons with a knuckle instead of a fingertip.

I encourage you to read the blog at the link for Virology Down Under below. I may be darned if I do, but damned if I don't.


Filed under: Health Policy and Trends, Infectious Diseases, Public Health

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