Making Their Wills the Law

At Bloomberg science writer Faye Flam offers some good advice:

Harvard’s William Hanage, who studies infectious disease dynamics, told me that people don’t need more rules. They need more information about how the virus is transmitted so they can take steps to avoid it. “When you phrase things in terms of rules, it leads people to try to come up with ways to get around those rules,” he says.

Rules can become a form of misinformation. The rules in many states seem to suggest that walking outside is dangerous and eating in a restaurant is safe, but Hanage says the truth is the other way around.

Baker has justified his outdoor mask mandate by saying it sends a message. The message I heard was that that the rules are not chosen for our health and welfare but to make our political leaders look like they are doing something.

Rules should only be decreed along with evidence for their benefit, argued statistician and risk communication expert David Spiegelhalter in a piece for The Guardian: “Too often, the message is shaped by communication professionals working to ensure the greatest number of people ‘get the message’ rather than thinking about how to present the evidence so the greatest number of people can understand it, trust it, and then decide for themselves.”

In my view rather than imposing mandatory mask requirements in the out-of-doors where it is practically useless and clearly arbitrary, more than anything a way for policymakers to signal that they’re doing something, we would be much better off encapsulating things into a few clear principles. Avoid the three C’s: close contact, closed spaces, and crowds. Stay away from those situations as best as you are able.

2 comments… add one
  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    I forget; but was it Japan whose main action was essentially telling its citizenry that message.

  • steve Link

    Those are good. Wear a mask when indoors and with people.


Leave a Comment