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

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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.

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FACT:

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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