Jeff Bauer Blog
It’s the Data, Trump!
After the previous post about using only good data for formulating public policy, I planned to start exploring artistic concepts for improving the future of health care. This synthesis will have to wait because I am gravely concerned by the White House’s decision to transfer responsibility for Covid-19 data from the CDC to a private contractor, followed two days later by plans to slash expenditures for collecting any data at all.
The data system at CDC had lots of problems, but this new approach can only make things worse. Trump is insane to believe that the problem will go away if we quit trying to measure it fully, much less accurately. Collecting data of acceptable quality—in sufficient quantity for scientific analysis—is the only way to prevent Covid-19 from becoming a catastrophe.
Based on numerous insider reports, I believe we’re headed in a catastrophic direction because in April Trump wanted to believe predictions from a Washington State model that suggested the virus was declining. (The model has more recently suggested it is increasing.) Cherry-picking optimistic results from one model is gross malfeasance when other models give a very pessimistic picture—the outcome that quickly proved to be true. First-hand reports from hospitals and caregivers from across the United States confirmed that cases and deaths were rising dramatically, contrary to the Washington model’s predictions.
Of course, no model can produce meaningful guidance for pubic policy if its predictions are generated from invalid (i.e., meaningless) and/or unreliable (i.e., inaccurate) data, but our pandemic problem has another dimension that demands equal attention. Reputable scientists do not yet know exactly what to measure in order to understand how this coronavirus works and how to tame it. Research into all aspects of the disease itself is the most important next step, which raises serious questions about the “warp speed” effort to develop a vaccine against an infection that is not yet well-defined.
I generally deplore anti-vaxers’ views but fear they may be valid in this instance if the White House continues to put all its eggs in the vaccine basket. We need to know everything about the enemy in order to develop a successful battle plan or a successful vaccine. Trump’s latest plans are doomed to failure because he willfully chooses to ignore—and possibly destroy—good data and reasoned analysis that conflict with his narcissistic world view. As a health futurist, I see very dark times ahead if this continues. As Confucius said, “Surely. we will end up where we are headed if we do not change direction.” Collecting and sharing good data, sooner rather than later, is an essential step toward turning things around.
P.S. While conducting a planning retreat for a rural Indiana hospital in 2009, I learned it did not have a strategy for dealing with the swine flu epidemic. I suggested creating a plan, but the board chair sternly advised me to move on to the next item on the agenda. The board had already decided not to do anything because H1N1 just might be the apocalypse prophesied in the Bible—an act of God the hospital must obediently accept. I still think about this discomforting exchange, especially because the local Congressman at the time (Mike Pence) now leads the White House’s coronavirus task force. Is there possibly a link here? Who needs scientific data when we’ve got the Book of Revelation to tell us what is going to happen? As Trump would say, “Just asking…”
AUTHOR: Jeff Bauer, PhD, FAANP(H), is an internationally recognized, independent health futurist and medical economist with 50 years in health care. He has published over 300 works that focus on ways to improve the medical marketplace. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 396-3280. His Web site is http://www.jeffbauerwords.com.
Copyright 2020, Jeffrey C. Bauer