There are many precautions we can take to slow the spread of COVID-19. The early message to the public was that these precautions (like wearing a mask) could “flatten the curve” of infections over time. This would prevent unnecessary deaths due to limited resources for patients who need them (such as intensive care unit beds or ventilators). Curve flattening does not prevent all people from getting the disease, but rather it prevents too many of them from getting the disease all at once. These approaches were aimed at the greater good for society rather than the individual. However, the messaging was inconsistent, and most people seem to be more concerned with protecting themselves and their families than flattening the curve for all. The focus on benefits to society was lost, and some people began to claim their civil liberties were being limited. The news media moved on from messages explaining what we as a society need to do to get back to normal to specific topics like, “Should we wipe down our grocery bags with bleach?” or “Is it safe to go swimming?” As mentioned recently at the International Summit on COVID-19 and Diabetes, we need clear and consistent messaging from leaders as we navigate this pandemic.
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