The COVID-19 virus is a threat the United States, and the entire world, hasn’t seen in over 100 years. The speed at which the virus is spreading is the only thing outpacing the 24-hour news cycle.
In less than three months medical professionals, starting with the World Health Organization (WHO), went from calling the coronavirus the flu to a global pandemic that has ground the country to a halt. This has forced healthcare providers onto the front lines of a war against an enemy they can’t see and have trouble tracking. The WHO, politicians, doctors, and news organizations have rapidly changed their approach to combatting the virus, shifting our collective priorities to a single focus of combatting the coronavirus and keeping Americans safe. Unfortunately, we are still behind even as we learn more each day.
The media plays an especially critical role as some of America’s most vulnerable populations still rely on cable television and newspapers to get their information. While many outlets initially lacked widespread coverage of the pandemic, most American media have come around and are now providing valuable information to the public on how to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Even though it has been several weeks since the virus appeared in the United States, medical professionals are still lacking the supplies they need to test for the virus while protecting themselves and their patients. We just don’t have enough tests or equipment. While we wait for supplies to come online, it’s crucial that the general public do their part by practicing social distancing and enhanced personal hygiene. In the immediate term, news outlets need to be conduits of the scientific facts rather than attacking each other. Let’s delay the political theater for when we have this in our rear view mirror.
Nevertheless, The New York Times recently used valuable space not to highlight the fight against COVID-19 or discuss what supplies doctors are still lacking, but to attack Fox News for “failing its viewers” with their earlier coverage of the emerging pandemic. I’m sure Fox News viewers got a good chuckle out of this defense, but the fact is we all had bags over our heads. Those bags were placed on our heads by the Chinese government.
This is why we all failed to grasp early on how serious of a threat COVID-19 would become. When all is said and done, there will be time to look inward, see what we got wrong, what should be done to correct it and what we should do in the future to prevent a repeat of history. But now is not the time. Rival news outlets are wasting time pointing fingers at each other. It serves to further damage our country and endanger our patients.
The most at-risk demographic to COVID-19 are the elderly. A significant group of them turn to Fox News for their daily news and pandemic coverage. The news station’s job is to provide their viewers with the most up-to-date information, keeping them informed with healthcare experts stating what they need to do to protect themselves. That should also be the job of The New York Times, CNN, NBC, the Washington Post, and every other news outlet. I’d hate to see an elderly person, or anyone for that matter, contract the virus because of muddled messages in the news. Yet at the same time, using fear of the unknown to drive ratings and supply hoarding is not responsible journalism.
We do not have the proper testing in place to effectively fight this virus yet and our supply lines are limited. Many healthcare professionals on the front lines are only allowed to use one mask a day. In the middle of a pandemic every minute counts, but one has to choose their battles. What matters now is addressing these extensive healthcare shortcomings, not what anyone said a month ago when we didn’t have a full grasp of the challenge we were facing. There will be plenty of time to blame each other later. Right now, we have a war to win.