Letter to the editor: Coronavirus response is fact-based, not ‘blind panic’
As someone with a highly visible platform in this community, columnist Morgan Liddick’s framing of COVID-19 within partisan rhetoric and conclusions about its risk through cavalier misinterpretations of global health data are irresponsible and dangerous. Comparing current U.S. COVID-19 fatalities to deaths from lightning or gun violence and using the sharp fall of China’s early case fatality rates to minimize COVID’s threat is profoundly misleading. The case fatality rate is often reported as a single value but changes within contexts of time, health infrastructure and population. Translating it to assess real-world risk requires disaggregation. One example: Fatality rates spiked as high as 20% in Wuhan before China implemented counteractions and its health care systems developed capacity to respond.
Epidemiologists look at growth rates — specifically doubling of new cases and fatalities — to fully assess threats posed from infectious disease. When doubling rates trend consistently, as COVID-19 is doing in some countries, these grow with frightening speed. This data is shared not to incite fear, hate and panic, but to reinforce the paramount necessity of enacting the painful social distancing steps proven to slow that growth.
Liddick is an opinion columnist, but as journalists, Summit Daily News staff are held to a professional code of ethics that obligates them to ensure words legitimized by the paper are fact-based and free from carelessness and distortion. Those facts and their interpretations are available through daily COVID-19 updates provided by Oxford’s Our World In Data and John Hopkins that are compiled from the World Health Organization’s situation reports and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other data. Liddick, as someone with a megaphone, you have a responsibility to educate yourself. Use your platform to unify the community, not divide it. You might save a life. And that’s the best feeling in the world.
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