Science has always played a role in politics. It drives decision-making around climate change, health care funding and, as of late, how to handle a pandemic. The current administration has repeatedly argued that "nobody" could have predicted the virus, claiming COVID-19 was basically unprecedented — but it simply isn’t true.
Researchers, scientists and students studying infectious diseases have been preparing for something like COVID-19 for years. The threat of a pandemic flu is not anything new; it’s been foreshadowed by Ebola, Zika and the swine flu. It was the reason that a pandemic response group — dissolved in 2018 by President Donald Trump over budget concerns — was created in the first place.
One of the more difficult aspects of dealing with a pandemic is integrating politics and science in order to prevent further panic. This can be achieved through effective communication between scientific experts and political leaders, and the dissemination of information in a way that is easy to understand and follow.
There are many things that entail effective communication between scientists, politicians and the general public. However, one of the things that it is not is allowing the president to hold a press conference in which he stated the latest recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control was "voluntary. I don’t think I am going to be doing it.”
In addition to publicly stating that the CDC’s guidelines were voluntary, the Trump administration has made a series of blunders, including their endorsements of therapies and medications that have yet to be proven as successful in coronavirus patients.