A socially distant press conference shouldn't mean distance from the most important story
Can we have a big conversation about how badly much of the mainstream press has handled serious issues for ... <<pretty much my entire life and I'm 44>>? It feels like we'll have a hard time making progress on anything substantive with this kind of roadblock in place. There is a lot of good journalism out there! But the most influential press isn't that.
Regarding #2, an article last week (possibly Washington Post?) noted a study that brought a group of the vaccine hesitant to talk with a medical expert (former head of the CDC?). The group asked their questions and discussed. later in the session they were asked if the session had been helpful, and how it compared to information different types of information they had heard before.
They said that what had been less helpful (they phrased it more strongly) was information from politicians. This was right when Biden was announcing plans to travel as a vaccine evangelist.
They were also leaning more toward getting the vaccine themselves, and following up on particular concerns they had.
Sorry I have lost the link.
My thoughts are to just not put everyone in our personal basket of deplorables. Whenever someone I am close to says "I don't plan to get the vaccine," my response is "You have plenty of company." They have always made a next statement, which gives me a chance to say "Here is why I decided to get it." So far that has always led to a discussion and I have been able to offer information that I can say was helpful to me. Often that part of our visit closes with them saying they just need more time and information, and want to see more experience with it.
Lately (because it matters to us) we seem to want to engage with other adults over our differences. That forces others to double-down and is not in our self-interest in the vaccination goal that matters to us or in our relationships with others.
All great questions. In addition, I would ask: do you have a comprehensive plan for what we do if there is in fact a widespread fourth surge, despite the vaccines? Also, re. vaccine hesitancy: who are you consulting with specifically about this problem, and will that include social epistemologists, sociologists, bioethicists, activists and outreach groups, as well as experts outside the U.S.? My sense is there's tons of discussion and analysis and insight out there, but it's not necessarily taken up by leadership.
BTW, Maya Goldenberg's new book on hesitancy from a philosophy-of-science perspective is very worth checking out!
Re #2- Do we know what the plans are to go forward with full approval of the vaccines rather than just emergency use authorization? It seems to me that such full approval is necessary to deal with vaccine hesitancy- both because some people still see these vaccines as experimental and want to "wait and see" and because in many settings vaccines can't be required- for instance for the military, and I'm guessing airplane travel, while they are only approved for emergency use.
I'm wondering if the president is the right person to be answering these questions? Perhaps the spotlight should be on other people in the administration? What other press conferences are they having?
Kudos to you, Zeynep, for raising these issues post press conference and also providing some specific questions that real journalists can ask, though who knows when the next time will be. It concerns me that none of these was asked and it concerns me that the current "WH press corps" is not going to do their jobs and ask the tough questions. I am am thankful that I can read something on this site that isn't just a mouthpiece for the Administration a la a "press conference," with apparently hand-picked journalists throwing soft balls to Mr. Biden.
Regarding our overall list, Biden commented after the Press Conference that he had expected more coronavirus questions. He did lead off with a lengthy statement on the coronavirus response.
He also at least mentioned school ventilation (among a zillion other things) in his pivot to infrastructure from the gun control question that he was asked.
Regarding your question #1, there was apparently a press release today about increased funding to reach unserved areas.
I think he appreciated the diversions to filibuster as a safe zone for him. It seems to me that he has been hesitant about having a press conference, possibly because he didn't want to make too many of his famous gaffes.
Are you sure 2 is a question that can even theoretically be solved by politics? With the current tools (such as the Democrats' reliance on what they think are celebrities) and given the current polarization? I can hardly imagine Biden's admin being of much help here, despite their so-far quite good job on COVID.
I'd be a lot more interested in
11. What will be done to turn the FDA and the CDC from roadblocks into helpers next time?
(Admittedly this is at least somewhat included in 6, but with such questions it's important to be concrete, as it's unlikely an unspecific question will get a specific response.)
16. I think I am speaking for just about everyone when I say "We don't want to go through this again". Will you promote and secure world-wide PPE kits for individuals, so that we have an immediate way to provide pathogen-free air for everyone as soon as a pathogen is identified? That will give aerosol experts, source control experts, and vaccine experts time to do their work.
14. Who is going to organize the production and distribution of worldwide (for every person in the world) high filtration masks, vaccines, and air filtration units (it will take a lot of high filtration polypropylene for all of these filters)
11. Our aerosol experts have demonstrated that covid is spread primarily by aerosols. In order to control aerosol transmission, they recommend high filtration masking, open air room ventilation and active air filtration of enclosed spaces. Will you, President Biden, commit to supplying N95 masks or equivilent quality masks to everyone, establish air quality parameters for enclosed spaces, verified by CO2 monitoring, as emergency infrastructure projects?
12. Monoclonal antibodies have been shown to reduce severe covid disease in over 85% of covid patients. Will you have PSA'a, newspaper ads, and, more importantly, establish monoclonal infusion 'camps' to run 18 hours a day across the nation?
13. Will you have those vaccinated given high filtration masks for themselves and all family members? With instruction re masking, home ventilation, air filtration, and living with a covid + family member?
All excellent questions. Most important to me is #6. It was a national emergency. Isn't it standard practice in emergency management to have "after-action reports"? Could there NOT be one?
Great questions! I’d add a “6A“: what institutional guard rails are going to be put in place to make sure that the FDA and CDC act effectively, independently and are obliged to voice disagreement with the executive when necessary.
Interestingly the COVID-19 WH briefings have had pretty decent, substantive questions, esp in comparison to Psaki’s WH briefings or the press conference.
Zeynep, what are your thoughts as to where we are going at this stage in the pandemic? Will there be another surge this late Spring or Summer? And what after that? At what point, in your opinion, do we reach endemic status? What are some things that will hasten this process or is it simply one in which the virus is going to run its course through us? Just your best educated guess, I won't hold you to predictions about the future.
One more round on question two.
Many, many years ago I heard Jane Pauley interview the performer Sting. She asked"How do you reach out to a large audience?" He seemed surprised by the question. He said "You don't. You leave a space for the audience to come to you."
I have made such good use of that. Just leaving out the one more point I could have made in an article or a memo or a note, not saying what I could have pushed in a conversation, just leaving that space, welcomes the other party to you and leaves room for discussion.