Misinformation leads to lack of trust

Published 1:04 am Saturday, April 30, 2022

Our mental health crisis is a lot bigger than COVID-19. Our country is in denial from its confluence of false facts to the willful ignorance of science, resulting in national blindness to the health crisis we face. 

And last week, the problem only became more acute as a Florida judge supplanted science by deciding that masks need no longer serve as protection from airborne viruses.

What follows this? An Ohio federal judge deciding the vaccines are illegal? Or a Florida judge prohibiting any mention of COVID-19 at all by public agencies? 

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control were undermined by the Trump administration, then silenced by the Trump team for their efforts to inform the public about COVID-19 facts and guidelines. 

Trump’s rationale was simple; Trump did not want the CDC contradicting his daily messages that COVID-19 would one day “just disappear.” Ultimately, the Trump team just took over re-writing the statements from the CDC, so they supported Trump’s false claims about cures, masks and isolations. That political interference caused the public to distrust the CDC reports both then and still now.  

The CDC indeed contributed to the confusion as its guidelines and directions changed with growing knowledge about COVID-19 and its derivatives. 

Mistakes have been made, but the Biden administration has not interfered in the functioning of our national health care crisis agency, and the CDC stands again as the agency dedicated to the understanding of disease-based threats to the nation. 

If a federal judge, any federal judge, can overrule the agency charged with protecting Americans with science-based guidelines for our national safety, then when future health crises occur, and they will, the CDC will be powerless to save lives.  

The mental health issue in America is that science, reason and logic are all too often the victims of a broken political system on the Right.

The CDC case of a Trump-appointed judge deciding that national health policy is subject to her considerations alone is but an example of this dysfunctional mixture of politics, Qanon conspiracies and “alternative” facts undermining the nation. 

The danger of undermining public trust, not only in health care, but in all of government, is unfolding in ways that threaten the nation more than any time in our history. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed that we were not ready for the response needed to COVID-19. 

We have lost nearly a million lives when so many could have been saved had we had more ventilators, more hospital beds, and more medical caregivers. 

We could have saved more lives if more Americans had been vaccinated. We are not even in the top twenty, with only 66 percent of our fellow citizens vaccinated. 

Now, in the stage of the pandemic shifting to an endemic status, we are discovering that our health insurance system is responding with new charges and denials of payment for some COVID-19 patients.  

The health care system remains badly broken, and no one in Washington seems inclined to offer the kinds of solutions that could remedy the system and better prepare us for the next health crisis.

We could, and should, be studying the failures responding to COVID-19 and using that knowledge to patch and repair the nation before the next crisis. 

But our political system is so badly broken that politics and extremism, like that of a federal judge overruling responsible healthcare guidelines, does not prompt condemnation. 

Yes, the Justice Department is seeking to have the ruling overturned for fear of this establishing a dangerous precedent. 

But the ruling is more than a mistake; it is a symptom that our national mental health is in crisis when even the outrageous is just another news item for but a day. 

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.