Conference Coverage

AMA president calls for greater reliance on science in COVID-19 fight


The president of the American Medical Association is calling on politicians and the media to rely on science and evidence to help the public through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Patrice Harris

“We live in a time when misinformation, falsehoods, and outright lies spread like viruses online, through social media and even, at times, in the media at large,” Patrice A. Harris, MD, said during an April 7 address. “We have witnessed a concerning shift over the last several decades where policy decisions seem to be driven by ideology and politics instead of facts and evidence. The result is a growing mistrust in American institutions, in science, and in the counsel of leading experts whose lives are dedicated to the pursuit of evidence and reason.”

To that end, she called on everyone – from politicians to the general public – to trust the scientific evidence.

Dr. Harris noted that the scientific data on COVID-19 have already yielded important lessons about who is more likely to be affected and how easily the virus can spread. The data also point to the effectiveness of stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders. “This is our best chance to slow the spread of the virus,” she said, adding that the enhanced emphasis on hand washing and other hygiene practices “may seem ‘simplistic,’ but they are, in fact, based in science and evidence.”

And, as the pandemic continues, Dr. Harris said that now is the time to rely on science. She said the AMA “calls on all elected officials to affirm science, evidence, and fact in their words and actions,” and she urged that the government’s scientific institutions be led by experts who are “protected from political influence.”

It is incumbent upon everyone to actively work to contain and stop the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19, she said. “We must ensure the war is against the virus and not against science,” Dr. Harris said.

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