p class=”css-exrw3m evys1bk0″>The official experts, under such conditions, are most trustworthy insofar as their admonitions track with nonexpert common sense. The approach that most experts are currently urging, for instance, is not some complicated high-science approach to disease management, but the most basic pre-modern method of disease control, as obvious to 15th-century Florentines as to 21st-century New Yorkers — shut things down, quarantine the sick and hope for the best.
Whereas the more specific and granular the experts get, the more the fluidity and chaos of the situation makes their pronouncements dubious. It’s good that we’re modeling the arc of the pandemic, but that doesn’t make any of the models trustworthy. It’s good that we’re trying to figure out how the disease spreads, but none of the claims so far about how you’re most likely to get it (from air, surfaces or otherwise) or who is most at risk (whether from viral load or pre-existing conditions) can be considered at all definitive. It’s good that we’re practicing social distancing, but all of the rules we’re implementing are just rough and ready guesstimates.
And you don’t want to overweight the pronouncements of official science in a situation that requires experimentation and adaptation and a certain amount of gambling. Yes, you should trust Anthony Fauci more than Donald Trump when it comes to the potential benefits of hydroxychloroquine. But the exigencies of the crisis require that experiments outrun the confidence of expert conclusions and the pace of bureaucratic certainty. So if you’re a doctor on the front lines trying to keep your patients from ending up on a ventilator, Dr. Fauci’s level of caution can’t be yours, and you shouldn’t be waiting for the double-blind control trial to experiment with off-label drugs that Spanish and Chinese doctors claim are helping patients.
The same logic applies for policymakers, for whom there is never going to be a definitive, one-size-fits-all blueprint telling them how and when to reopen cities or communities. Every single reopening will be its own unique experiment, with confounding variables of climate, density, age and genetics that are nearly impossible to model, and the advice of epidemiologists will only go so far. Governors and mayors will have to act like scientists themselves, acting and re-acting, adapting and experimenting, with expert advisers at their shoulders but no sure answers till the experiment begins.
— Eli Lake (@EliLake) April 7, 2020