CORONAVIRUS

Epidemiologist Warns 'All-Or-Nothing' Messaging On Coronavirus Can Backfire

Harvard Medical School’s Julia Marcus advocated a harm-reduction approach during a CNN town hall on the pandemic.

Epidemiologist Julia Marcus, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, warned of the pitfalls of “abstinence-only messaging” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

During CNN’s global town hall on the public health crisis on Thursday, Marcus said a possible side effect of attempting to totally eliminate the risk of spreading the virus (which she accepted is currently not possible) was people shaming others on social media “for what seems to be risky behavior.” That shaming, she said, drives those activities underground, possibly to an indoor dinner party, “which we know is going to be actually higher risk.”

“The last thing we want is for contact tracers to be trying to trace people who may have been exposed in an outbreak and people not being willing to disclose they attended an event,” Marcus said.

Marcus instead advocated a harm-reduction approach that equips people with the knowledge and tools to differentiate between high-risk and low-risk activities.

People can’t stay inside forever or until a vaccine is developed, which could take several months or even years, she noted. The “all-or-nothing approach, where we’ve really been telling people to stay home,” was needed during the pandemic’s first months, she said.

But now, a more sustainable strategy is required, she said.

To that end, Marcus said she was “very happy” to hear Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the Trump White House coronavirus task force, encouraging people during the same town hall to “go out” over Memorial Day weekend (while still avoiding crowds, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance).

“I think that’s the approach we need moving forward, is to encourage people to be outdoors where we know the risk of transmission is much lower,” said Marcus.

Check out the interview here:

And Fauci’s comments here:

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