This time, a lot of local public health departments around the country are working hard to get the message right, says Adriane Casalotti of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. “We have seen local health departments being out there, trying to explain to folks what we do know, but also what we don’t know — and what the timeframe is, and what the process is for learning more.”
One official who’s getting out there is Dr. Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis, a specialist in infectious diseases and the director of health for the city of St. Louis.
“The message is: There’s no need to panic,” she says. “We still need to learn, we still need to wait for science to do its thing. But in the meantime, we have tools available to keep ourselves and our community safe. We have safe and effective vaccines — so go out and get one — we know that masking works, we know that social distancing works, and we know that hand-washing works.”
In addition to the “don’t panic, do this instead” message, Vish Viswanath, professor of health communication at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health says Hlatshwayo Davis is also signaling to the community that she’s engaged and plans to keep them updated as scientists learn more about the new variant. He says her approach is “exactly what we need.”
“That sense of competence and action — ‘we are watching it, we are on top of it, we’ll work with you’ — it won’t eliminate, but it will abate many concerns,” he says.
"We still need to learn, we still need to wait for science to do its thing,” @MatiH_ID tells @NPR. “But in the meantime, we have tools available to keep ourselves and our community safe.” https://t.co/WWaKj5FYaa
— Brian Munoz (@brianmmunoz) December 2, 2021