Science Changes… Don’t Shoot the Messenger
by Christina Charie ’25
Science is a blessing—until it is a curse. Many people living in first-world countries have gotten used to science providing a reasonable answer to several conflicts which are now considered issues of the past. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, science began telling the population truths no one wanted to hear. The comfort one could find in science was nonexistent. Dr. Fauci became one of the faces of social distancing, masking, and Zoom calls. When the government decided to shut down the country, waves of reports came regarding Dr. Fauci initially telling government officials not to act against the virus in early 2020. However as the latest information and data about the novel coronavirus’ transmissibility became available, his messaging changed. This behavior is not unique to the infectious disease specialist. Reacting to current information is natural.
In recent weeks, Fauci has come under fire for research he completed regarding the Spanish Flu. People falsely claimed the investigation concluded that masking during the Spanish Flu caused bacterial pneumonia. Eventually, the pneumonia itself or in combination with the Spanish Flu would lead to death. However, the research results never verified this conclusion. Masking can be an inconvenience at times, but Dr. Fauci does not deserve to be slandered for suggesting a tactic for the safety of the public. Quite frankly, masking is a widespread practice that has worked for several years. Doctors have worn masks for most of recent history during surgical situations. People should not push their pandemic fatigue on Fauci. His job is to make recommendations based on scientific data..
Secondly, critics of Dr. Fauci should not compare COVID-19 and the Spanish Flu because of the historical and technological differences between the two periods of history. General sanitation practices in the early twentieth century are not as comprehensive as today’s society. The quality of 1918 face coverings is not as consistent as ones available today. Additionally, during the outbreak of the Spanish Flu, the disease had a perfect environment. The trenches on the battlefields of World War I were highly unsanitary, leaving no room for social distancing. Comparisons to the Spanish Flu being wielded against Fauci are illogical since society and science are constantly evolving. Even if Dr. Fauci concluded that masking made the Spanish Flu outbreak worse, he should not be held to his conclusions today because science constantly improves.
Also, the flu and the novel coronavirus are biologically different. Mitigation efforts proven effective for one of these diseases might not work for the other. Masks may not be as effective against the flu while still providing ample protection against coronavirus. The primary method of disease transmission influences how science issues guidance.
Few would say COVID-19 mitigation efforts were great. The restrictions brutally interrupted everyday life, led to increased depression, and negatively impacted educational progression. Despite this, Dr. Fauci is not to blame for simply telling the public a difficult truth. People needed to work to support their families. Few preferred social distancing, staying home, and masking instead of their pre-pandemic lives. If Americans took Dr. Fauci more seriously, lives could have been spared from the dangers of COVID-19.