Here’s what I am seeing across the media landscape. One: Articles and TV segments are helping to shift the conversation about Covid-era restrictions, especially among vaccinated adults. Two: Analysts are calling out the government’s guidance when it’s overly cautious. Three: Interviewers are presenting those concerns and questions to health experts and elected officials.
In this way, the press is standing up for common sense and helping the country navigate a gradual way out of the pandemic thicket.
It’s obvious that Biden is trying to model safe behavior. But it’s just as important when he models what vaccinated people can do safely — as he did by stepping off Air Force One without a mask on Thursday. It’s a signal to vaccinated people of what they can do now, and a signal to the unvaccinated of the benefits of getting the shots.
Many Americans are striving for more normalcy in their lives every day post-vaccine. But many others are confused by the maze of rules and recommendations and are inclined to keep laying low. (And many of the vaccinated people trying to return to normal are confused too.) The media’s role is to cut through that confusion and give people the information they need to stay as safe as possible while getting back to their lives as fast as possible.
“Leaders need to model good public health guidance,” CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore health commissioner Dr. Leana Wen told me. “That means modeling caution when that’s warranted and hope when that’s needed. In this ‘in between’ time, when both caution and hope are needed, we really need leaders to do both, and demonstrate the road map back to normal while also showing where caution is still needed.”
I found that to be a helpful way of thinking about this stage: “In between” time. We have to “unlearn” some behaviors, but not all the way, and we have to respect the whiplash that folks are feeling.
No mocking, no shaming
Wen also said the messaging about risk needs to be a lot clearer. “There are two main points: Outdoors is really safe, even for unvaccinated people,” she said. “We don’t need masks outdoors except in large crowds. Also, vaccinated people pose very little risk to public health. Those fully vaccinated should be able to return to any level of activity they choose.”
“Those who want caution shouldn’t be mocked, but those who want to return to pre-2020 life shouldn’t be shamed either,” she added. “Focus our attention to those who are not vaccinated — they are at high risk for contracting and spreading coronavirus.”
Here are two articles that shaped my thinking this week
Coincidentally, both were published by the Washington Post, and both are from professors:
‘America’s Covid vaccine hesitation is an insult to countries in need’
Jones recounts what residents in rural Oregon said — for example, “a woman of advanced age breathlessly explained to me how she was never taking the vaccine because Covid-19 ‘is just the flu'” — and reflects on what her family members and friends in Brazil are going through. “Brazil is struggling not only to import vaccines but with a massive Covid wave,” she wrote.