AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY IN THE WAKE OF CORONAVIRUS / COVID-19

LA Streets Buzzing A Week Before Lockdown — Photo: Robert Weir

To Whom It May Concern:

I’ll start by saying that I applaud the scientific community and its earnestness in the pursuit of preventing loss of life due to COVID-19. The scientific community is valuable to the social ecosystem of the USA and its insights can be incredibly impactful. That said, it is unclear whether or not the benefit of what the scientific community has offered in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has outweighed the detriment to society that has been caused by its byproducts.

I am not a scientist, I do not hope to put forth any scientific information in this letter as it seems that all of those subjects are too hot to touch at the moment. That being said, I am, at least, a semi-rational human being. I possess critical thinking skills and the ability to create a hierarchy of preference and values within my cognitive structure.

I believe it’s safe to say that at least some of the hysteria surrounding COVID-19 has worn off and we can assess our future approach to preventing loss of life through a clearer lens. Now that cooler heads have a chance to prevail, I’ve created a list of questions that I would love for anybody in the epidemiology / virology / immunology / scientific research community or politicians / policy makers / concerned citizens to address. The questions are followed by some thoughts and concerns to add context.

I have composed the following list for two reasons… First, to try to perceive the whole picture with more clarity than I’ve been offered via most media outlets. Second, to address some of the concerns that I have regarding our response to the pandemic.

1. Is there room for information about quality of life in scientific decision making? The reason I ask this question is that it seems we have decided on a social policy level that length of life or freedom from disease is of the utmost importance. This allocation of value seems to significantly tip the scales of balance towards the public health side of government.

2. Is there any oversight of, or will there be any recourse for, scientists who have provided false information in the midst of the pandemic? This question is tricky because I am not sure who is keeping scientists accountable. It seems that on one level, governmental organizations like the CDC and NIAID are creating accountability, but it also seems that the CDC and NIAID are accountable to no one, including private citizens who may possess scientifically sound information that conflicts with that of the governmental organizations.

3. Is there room for a voice of dissent against or amidst the scientific community? Is there any system of checks and balances that exists that keeps scientists honest? It seems that there is a common narrative within the scientific community that most scientists and scientific commentators adhere to. Then there is a side that conflicts with this narrative that is typically dismissed as ignorant, yahoos, weirdos, etc. Is the science and data that is coming out of the common narrative really as bullet proof as they make it out to be, is it as simple as they make it out to be.

4. Why, in the midst of the pandemic, have the news and CDC chosen to report the fatality rate as COVID-19 related deaths divided by confirmed infected? I think it is clear to most people that it is much more likely that there are more people infected than are actually confirmed. It seems that we have accepted a partial picture of the situation as complete and have let that guide policy. I take offense at this because the underlying theme is that I couldn’t understand the complexity of the calculations if they were presented in a factual manner, so instead it’s insisted that I accept the partial picture as the whole truth.

5. What can I, as a citizen, do / read / learn to be better informed and more helpful/respectful to my neighbors if giving blind trust to governmental organizations has ceased to be a viable option? I crave a clear picture of what’s going on. I crave a situation in which I have enough information to make fully informed decisions on my own and be willing to live with the consequences. Please help me here.

Thanks very much for your time and consideration.

Stay healthy. Stay free. Stay safe.

-Robert Weir