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US public frustrated over government’s inconsistent messages on coronavirus

[Photo: Pixabay]

As COVID-19 continues to rampage across the US, the public is growing increasingly frustrated at the inconsistent messages on coronavirus being sent out by the US government, with its downplaying of the lethal virus clashing with health officials’ solemn warnings.

These contradictory announcements were highlighted on Sunday when US President Donald Trump noted on Twitter that his administration’s response to the virus is a “perfectly coordinated and fine-tuned plan.” He also stressed that he wouldn’t be postponing his political rallies, which can attract upward of 15,000 attendees. The president’s optimism was not shared by health officials. Anthony Fauci, top infectious disease doctor at the National Institute of Health, warned that the elderly and medically vulnerable should avoid large crowds, while Surgeon General Jerome Adams told the public to be prepared for more cases and deaths.

On the same day, divergence also took place between the New York government and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York State, criticized the federal government for delays in allowing private laboratories in New York State to test for the coronavirus, adding the state would not know the full extent of the spread until it could do more testing.

Governor Cuomo is calling on the Federal Government to expedite approval of private labs and automated and manual testing to expand NYS's coronavirus testing capacity. (Screenshot from New York State official website)

The contradictory messages on COVID-19 from the US government has left an already jittery public even more on edge. In February, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow tried to assuage concerns over the virus, saying that it had been contained. But urgent public health advice coming from the CDC later revealed that the spread of COVID-19 in the US is inevitable, confusing the public and even leading to fierce debates in the government.

“Whom should I listen to, the White House, the CDC, or the health officials? Obviously, when it comes to the same virus, they have totally different opinions. I feel so frustrated because we cannot get a unified official opinion on the virus, and it is spreading across the nation now,” noted a Reddit user named Aroramond.

The US government has been criticized by health experts worldwide for its failure to provide the public with accurate and basic knowledge of COVID-19. During an interview with VOX, Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director-General of WHO, noted that many Americans haven’t understood the basics of the virus.

Bruce Aylward, an epidemiologist who led an advance team from the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a press conference of the China-WHO joint expert team in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 24, 2020. (Photo by Xinhua)

“If you want to get speed of response, your population has to know this disease. You find any population in the West and ask them what are the two pressing signs you have to be alert to. What would you say?” said Aylward.

“Make sure your people know [about the virus]. Make sure you have mechanisms for working with them very quickly through your health system. Then enough public health infrastructure to investigate cases, identify the close contacts, and then make sure they remain under surveillance,” he further added.

Inconsistency in messaging on COVID-19 has also led to public distrust of the government. On March 4, the CDC’s decision to stop reporting test numbers triggered a backlash, prompting public fear that lack of information may accelerate the spread of COVID-19. Though the CDC later reversed its decision and continued to provide test numbers, its information was then challenged by the public as being inconsistent and lacking transparency. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Kou Jie, Bianji)

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