May 21: The Trump administration and AstraZeneca announce a collaboration to speed development of a COVID-19 vaccine called AZD1222. HHS says it expects the first doses to be available as early as October 2020; phase 3 clinical studies are underway this summer. The CDC updates its guidance on COVID-19 transmission, explaining that the “virus spreads easily between people.” The same day, President Trump states that the United States would not shut down the country due to a second wave of infections. “We are going to put out the fires,” he says. “But we are not closing the country.” William Bryan, the man who filmed Arbery’s death, is charged with murder. 2.4 million people file new jobless claims. Trump tours a Ford plant without a mask.
It goes without saying that, in a pandemic, we truly need consistent, lucid, expert opinion. And, perhaps not surprisingly, a report issued by the Pew Center today suggests that a gap is growing between those on the political left, whose trust in the expertise of scientists and physicians has grown significantly since last year, and those on the political right whose belief in the integrity of scientists and physicians has not changed.
In the study, which surveyed around 30,000 participants, Pew found that Democrats believe that scientists need to play a crucial role in shaping policy, yet they are currently not having much influence in shaping federal policies to control the coronavirus. This would seem to reflect a deeper conviction that there are scientists and public health experts whose advice is needed and available but who are being largely ignored right now. A bit surprising: the study discovered that Republicans also believe scientists are good at making policy decisions when it comes to scientific issues, and they believe that those scientists are currently having significant influence in shaping federal policies regarding the coronavirus.
I find this paradoxical. To be consistent to themselves, Trump supporters must also argue that the president is guiding his ship based on sound scientific advice. Yet he and, according to the poll, his supporters, express a deep skepticism that science can be trusted to help with this crisis. To square this circle, I suppose his supporters must believe that, “science” being good and Trump being on their team, he is using “good” scientists—people who agree with him. Given that Trump frequently disregards expert, scientific opinion, and that his supporters have been told again and again that the coronavirus is a hoax intended to bring down their team, any scientist who disagrees with him must not be a “good” scientist. It’s a nice circle. Trump relies on good scientific information. How do we know? Because he ignores all bad scientists. If they were good, they would agree with him.
Interestingly, there is rising agreement across the board that the opinions of the uninformed, untrained public should not play a role in guiding policy decisions about scientific issues. In 2014, only 35% said the uninformed public should not. During this pandemic, minds changed on the power that the untrained public should have guiding policy regarding science: 55% now say they should not. If Republicans don’t trust the scientists and they don’t trust the public, then there is only one group left to trust: their party leaders and their media luminaries.
This, I suppose, helps in part to explain why we failed to heed the warnings of the scientists about the coronavirus early on.
Even for those of us who were listening to the science, there can be no denying that we received inconsistent information from the scientists themselves on a regular basis. Part of that is understandable; it is, in fact, the nature of scientific inquiry that hypotheses remain tentative and change as new information comes to light. But the culture of the preprint and the 24-hour news cycle meant that these tentative hypotheses reached the eyes and ears of millions, shaping policy and public opinion, and creating cascades of damaging misinformation.
NBC Nightly News, FBI: Shooting At Texas Naval Air Station Was Terrorism Related, May 21, 2020. https://youtu.be/54R_CoScw_k
Kotch, Alex, “Coalition of Pro-Trump Doctors Will Defend the President’s COVID-19 Blunders,” Center for Media and Democracy, May 19, 2020. https://www.exposedbycmd.org/2020/05/19/coalition-pro-trump-doctors-will-defend-presidents-covid-19-blunders/
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Farber, Madeline, “CDC now says coronavirus ‘does not spread easily’ via contaminated surfaces,” Fox News, May 21, 2020. https://www.foxnews.com/health/cdc-now-says-coronavirus-does-not-spread-easily-via-contaminated-surfaces.
Our committee has reviewed data from Michigan’s second anti-lockdown protest & its attendees’ movements throughout the state. Here’s 👇 a time lapse data visualization of the 4/30 protest at the state capitol. (4/11) pic.twitter.com/3mLo1w9Qab— Committee to Protect Health Care (@cmteetoprotect) May 18, 2020
More than 1,700 COVID-19 tests administered to people in Florida were damaged in transit this month. That brings to nearly 35,000 the number of tests administered in Florida to face complications recently. https://t.co/S9eHFeq6n1— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) May 21, 2020
@cnnbrk @ChrisCuomo There are so many coverups concerning CoVid. Now it is all about the reelection. WHY ELSE DID HE MUZZLE FAUCI, BIRX, and all other scientists from speaking to press or media??— PeaceRose (@peacerz1) May 21, 2020
I tested very positively (alt take) pic.twitter.com/krywW3vDjl— Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr) May 21, 2020
Whats hilarious is that the the field hospital in NYC was completed the day after they Cuomo issued that order.— bayta (@sarchasm9) May 21, 2020
Things won't return to normal until Gates, Fauci, Birx,— ken boyer (@benkoyer) May 18, 2020
Governors Cuomo, Newsome, Inslee, Pritzger and Whitmer, and the Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot are all VACCINATED, CHIPPED, and LOCKED UP.
As the good book SHOULD say…
Do unto others BEFORE they would do unto you. pic.twitter.com/h1VasPPrWx
UPDATE! Turns out this leatherback lady had tags! She was originally tagged by the @LoggerheadMC down in Juno on March 2016! They named her ‘Vienna’. She nested down in Juno earlier this year, too. Leatherbacks get around! pic.twitter.com/9ep6IN934D— Dr. Kate Mansfield 😷 (@UCFTurtleLab) May 21, 2020
Our @DurhamHealthNC has added race & ethnicity data to the #COVID19 data hub … https://t.co/FoJw6hSjxy https://t.co/qYcLOZPUI8— Durham County, NC (@DurhamCounty) May 21, 2020
May? 2+2=4 then, now, and in the future. This is the greatest blunder ever perpetuated by supposed leadership upon their own people. Republican, Democrat, CDC, Fauci, Birx, the media…..they are all guilty as Hell for destroying our way of life for absolutely nothing.— IndyModels (@IndyModels) May 21, 2020
* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (https://www.ajmc.com/view/a-timeline-of-covid19-developments-in-2020), the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (https://www.justsecurity.org/69650/timeline-of-the-coronavirus-pandemic-and-u-s-response/), the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (theweek.com), as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.