For Coronavirus, Federal Scientists are Restricted in What They Can Say to the Public

Published Mar 23, 2020

What happened: Federal health officials and scientists are now required to coordinate all statements and public appearances on the novel coronavirus, and the disease it causes called COVID-19, with the Office of the Vice President Mike Pence. While officials insist that Pence’s goal is not to control what experts and other officials say on the novel coronavirus but to make sure that their efforts are coordinated, this action by the White House has already led Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, to cancel some appearances on TV news shows.

Why it matters: The public needs accurate and up-to-date information in order to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus. Federal scientists and health professionals have a wealth of knowledge in disease surveillance and infectious disease control, as well as unparalleled experience communicating complex scientific information while threats are rapidly evolving. By requiring a “clearance” check on health experts, the White House is inhibiting public access to the best available science and increases the likelihood that misinformation will spread during a public health crisis.

Learn more about how the Trump administration’s response to the novel coronavirus has restricted scientists from speaking directly to the public, how the administration is woefully underprepared to deal with the crisis because of a lack of scientific expertise, and how the administration is limiting or even concealing access to data on the coronavirus epidemic.