What would you recommend to those trying to communicate the varying protocols and not only its differences at the federal and state level, but by institution and place of work?
One of the issues is that different environments are going to have slightly—or sometimes wildly different—needs for health protocols. A hospital needs to have a different level of protective protocols than an elementary school. What we need to do is explain to people why those protocols are differing from place to place.
We need to understand and embrace the fact that protocols aren't going to be one size fits all, but we need to explain when and why and where they're different.
The other challenge that is embedded in this conversation is the interplay between politics and health measures. From a communications standpoint, it looks disingenuous to the public when they're being asked to do something that's different than what their leaders are being asked to do, or when there are two different standards. That’s a challenge that you're going to continue to have in the pandemic, when White House protocols and congressional protocols differ from what we're asking the public to do.
We also know that many of these institutions have more resources than the general public. We need to help communicate clearly to people why, when and where protocols are different, so that they understand the difference when we're comparing.
COVID-19 sparked discussions about misinformation. Is “misinformation” a useful term, or is there a better way we can name and address the uncertainty around fast-moving epidemiology and technology?
There’s far too much that we've labeled misinformation that has turned out to be true and that's hurt credibility. When people say misinformation, what they're really implying is that this person is not a credible source of information, and likely has an ulterior motive or agenda. I recommend to people that they talk to their doctor, their nurse or their local pharmacist for health information.
I’m not an electrician. I can give you some information, which may occasionally turn out to be right, but that doesn't mean you should trust me over your electrician. Does that mean I'm giving you misinformation? No. It means that I am a less credible source of information than other people out there. We need to do a better job of identifying who is more likely to be credible source, and someone who has the background to be able to give you credible information.
You also see this playing out on social media. The blue check marks on Twitter originally started off being given mostly to celebrities as a way to show this is the real celebrity versus a fake account. That has now morphed into if you've got a blue check mark, then I should trust everything that you say. That's not necessarily the case, because these individuals don't have the education and training to be commenting on everything.
Joe Rogan is not someone who you should regularly trust to get medical advice from versus your own doctor. Conversely, you shouldn't trust your doctor if your doctor's trying to give you advice about how to be a comedian. That's Joe Rogan's world. That doesn't make either one a purveyor of misinformation, but it does mean that you should know who you're talking to and who you're getting your information from. And then we should help people figure out who are credible sources of information for different topics.