COVID Contemplations - Center of Disappointments and Confusion - Trusting Yourself and Others
Podcast: “The Science of COVID-19 With Lawrence Mayer, MD, MS, PhD.”
By: Dr. Andrew Tisser with guest Dr. Lawrence Mayer
Podcast Episode Highlight
Dr. Andrew Tisser interviews the clinical epidemiologist Dr. Lawrence Mayer about COVID in this podcast episode. They discuss multiple topics, but my focus here is on their comments concerning the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an organization under the auspices of the federal government and a prominent national health institute of the United States of America. Physicians, healthcare organizations, and the public have relied on this official organization for leadership and direction.
From 13:45 to 14:30, Dr. Mayer states that, in regards to the COVID pandemic,
the CDC has given us no leadership on this. In past epidemics CDC has always been the leader. We’ve always trusted what they’ve said. And suddenly my friends at the CDC say that they need to be careful not to say anything that is against their secretary or current administration or they fear for their jobs. So they’re being amazingly, amazingly silent. And I’ve heard nothing from the director of CDC whatsoever on the outbreak.3
And Dr. Tisser responds, “That’s horrible. Ah, the... I know the CDC has lost a lot of credibility with us frontline workers due to their statement about wearing bandanas and scarves.”
Dr. Tisser is referring to this statement by the CDC:
In settings where facemasks are not available, HCP might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort. However, homemade masks are not considered PPE, since their capability to protect HCP is unknown. Caution should be exercised when considering this option. Homemade masks should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face.
The CDC had already lost much of the credibility of physicians who were treating COVID in person, but this statement made many more physicians feel betrayed and lose their trust in the CDC. This statement was perceived as the CDC essentially telling healthcare workers it was okay to go work using bandanas and scarves that would provide probably little to no protection against contracting the virus and bringing it home to their loved ones. They concluded that the CDC had become a center of disappointment and confusion that could no longer be trusted as an authority with healthcare personnel’s best interests in mind.
Whether you realize it or not, you have come this far in life because you trusted in the guidance and expertise of many authority figures: parent(s) / guardian(s), teachers, religious or organization leaders, governing bodies, friends, celebrities, and/or the news media. Maybe you have even endowed authority and trust in some random person on Facebook who claims to know “stuff.” You operate and live life based on whose authority you trust and whose authority you do not trust. It is natural for people to want to trust and believe in others. This is how relationships and living in a society work.
But what if a person or organization that is supposed to be an authority betrays the trust of their followers? And what if they have no intention of apologizing or acknowledging their mistake?
For example, let’s say you follow a food connoisseur who blogs about their eating escapades and reviews restaurants that they eat at. Historically, you’ve trusted their recommendations. Whenever you travel somewhere, you reference their blog to decide where to go eat. What if it became known that the food blogger was paid by certain restaurants to give them better reviews, and the blogger did not address this at all? Would you lose your trust in this blogger? Would you continue to have trust in them? Would you continue to follow their recommendations? Would you look for another food blogger expert?
There are people who continued to use Wells Fargo’s financial services even after the fraudulent account scandal became known. People stay with a partner / spouse who abuses them. Doctors may go back to trusting the CDC even though the latter may not change their ways.
The inclination to have an authority figure to trust can be so strong that people continue to trust in and follow others that have demonstrated they are untrustworthy, possess bad intentions, and are not inclined to change.
Questions and exercises - Your trust
Who are the authority and influential figures in your life?
National organization that represents your profession / a union?
Local and national government?
Social media influencers?
Social media posts and images?
Why did you start trusting them? Should you continue trusting them today?
Who do you trust regarding highly technical and specialized matters? For example, do you trust physicians with extensive education and experience in infectious diseases with matters relating to COVID, or do you trust a group of people on Facebook who cannot back up what they say but get a lot of people to agree with them? Why do you trust who you trust?
You will be tempted to avoid fully answering these questions. A part of you will be uncomfortable with this and nudge you to either not answer the question or only answer it superficially.
Answer the questions. Use this moment of discomfort to grow and take steps on your journey.
Tisser A. “The Science of COVID-19 With Lawrence Mayer, MD, MS, PhD.” Talk2MeDoc. 2020. Available at: https://talk2medocpod.com/014-2/.Accessed April 15, 2020.
Facemasks. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov /coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/ppe-strategy/face-masks.html. Updated March 17, 2020. Accessed June 13, 2020.
Reuters. Wells Fargo faces costly overhaul of bankrupt sales culture. NBC News website. https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/wells-fargo-faces-costly-overhaul-bankrupt-sales-culture-n664966. Updated October 12, 2016. Accessed June 13, 2020.