At Patch.com Pulitzer Price-winning columnist Mark Konkol affirms points I’ve been making for months—that Illinois Gov. Pritzker’s lack of transparency, arrogance, and playing fast and loose with the science has undermined his credibility in dealing with COVID-19:
A recent Cornell University study found that politicians who pontificate in deterministic terms about the pandemic science that guides them risk eroding the public’s trust in their policies and, worse, in science itself.
Dr. Sarah Kreps and Dr. Doug Kriner surveyed more than 6,000 people to shed light on how political messaging about scientific research guiding government responses to the pandemic affects the public’s trust in science and science-based public policy.
The study findings, published in the journal Science Advances, suggested that when politicians downplayed the scientific uncertainty of pandemic modeling, it appeared to create a short-term spike in support for pandemic policies.
But when scientific predictions don’t exactly jibe with reality, which they almost never do, the Cornell study showed the potential consequences — the erosion of the public trust.
“No model is right,” Kriner told me. “As the old saying goes, some models are just more useful than others. If we talk about it in these deterministic ways, when they will almost always not end up matching reality perfectly, there can be a downside.”
The study found: “Communicating the science in ways that are more categorical, sidestepping uncertainty, and weaving in fatalistic interpretations of the data are effective at building support at least in the short term. However, if projections prove incorrect, then arguments emphasizing reversals in projections can temper these gains and, potentially, even decrease support for science-based policymaking.”
From the pandemic’s start, Pritzker has consistently downplayed the omnipresent uncertainty of scientific research that guides him. His administration still keeps coronavirus predictive modeling that determines pandemic policy a state secret. And when faced with a Greek chorus of skeptics, the governor warned of the dangers of continued disobedience, stoking fear of the certain catastrophic consequences as the coronavirus crisis intensifies.
“What will it take to make this real for you?” Pritzker said last month in an attack on folks backing open rebellions against his coronavirus edicts.
“Do we have to get to a positivity rate of 50 percent like we’re seeing in Iowa? Fifty percent. Are you waiting for health care workers to get sick to a point where you don’t have staff in the local hospital to cover the next shift? What about if the hospitals get so overrun that your sick and your dying have nowhere left to turn?”
It’s the kind of coronavirus messaging the Cornell study suggests politicians might want to avoid.
“I’m sensitive to what politicians do. They’re using our best guess right now in trying to get people to take urgent action to try and save lives,” Kriner said. “But I think there is some danger when [scientific] guidance changes, and it always changes.”
As Illinoisans continue to struggle under the devastating economic shutdowns enacted in an attempt to slow the spread of spiking COVID-19 cases, it’s become increasingly clear that Pritzker’s reliance on “not scientific” coronavirus metrics that trigger the state’s tiered pandemic mitigation restrictions have created a credibility crisis that the governor has struggled to overcome.
It probably doesn’t help that he has sent his own family gallivanting out of the state, flitting among their many homes in Florida, Wisconsin, and who knows where, sending workman from Illinois up to his Wisconsin horse farm to make improvements, sending Illinois state troopers there, and generally making a mockery of the notion that we’re all in this together. It’s nearly as bad as when the mayor of Chicago allows rioters to loot Michigan Avenue but breaks up demonstrations near her own home.
I continue to believe that any plan that deems half of all workers essential or that closes down mom-and-pop stores while leaving major chains and online retailers conducting business as usual is absurd on its face, especially when reports of outbreaks in Amazon warehouses and Wal-Mart stores hit the news. It probably doesn’t help when other governors (and, we learn, mayors) flout the mandates they’ve imposed on others.
As I’ve been proposing since at least March, the strictest measures should be imposed first rather than imposing diktats that are not strict enough to have the desired effect but too strict to maintain in the long run. Eventually the long run arrives.