By Brian Hubbell
The United States is known for breaking records, but this record is troubling. Just recently, the United States reached over 75,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day, breaking the previous record by over 10,000. This brings the total number of cases in the U.S. to over 5 million and the death toll to over 165,000. States around the nation face surges in infections, many as a result of irresponsible behavior and people refusing to wear masks.
This reckless behavior must stop now – our essential and frontline workers are risking their lives every day, and we can keep them safe by following the advice of public health experts when it comes to preventing the spread of the virus. We should trust and follow our public health professionals, doctors and researchers like our own Dr. Nirav Shah, who use science and facts to develop their recommendations. But some in the right-wing media have downplayed those recommendations and the overall severity of this pandemic. Studies like the one published in The Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review show that conservative media has amplified misinformation and conspiracy theories, leading to their audiences not appreciating or taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves and those around them.
We have seen people mock those who wear masks, and even public officials prohibiting employees and members of the public from doing so. This despite continued evidence from multiple studies highlighting the growing consensus that proper wearing of masks significantly reduces transmission of the virus. These studies show that consistent and correct use of masks help contain the virus, and the United States’ delay in fully embracing and implementing the use of masks substantially hindered efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
If we know anything from history and from watching this pandemic play out around our nation and the world, it is that we must trust science and innovation. We must have confidence in the seeds of hope our scientists and medical experts have planted working around the clock to develop COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. In the last 20 years, we have seen U.S. investment in research lead to cures and treatments for serious and chronic conditions. Through innovation, scientists and researchers developed effective treatments for diseases like HIV, Hepatitis C and cancer – to the point where they are no longer certain death sentences.
The U.S. invests $90 billion in the research and development of new medicines annually and is investing billions more in COVID-19 research. According to the World Health Organization, we have 19 experimental COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials, including at least one in Phase 3 and over 130 vaccines in earlier stages of development.
The scientific and medical communities are committed to combating this virus. And we, the public, have a critical role to play as well. So let’s wear our masks, give one another space, get checked if we have symptoms and follow the ongoing, evolving recommendations of the experts. We must trust in the data and the innovation that stems from it to find a way through this pandemic. We owe it to the frontline essential workers from our grocery store clerks to our healthcare workers, sanitation workers, childcare workers, teachers and more, who are putting themselves out there – despite the risks – to make sure those risks are as small as possible.
Representing Bar Harbor, Mount Desert and Lamoine in his fourth term in the state legislature, Brian Hubbell serves on the Appropriations Committee, the Maine Climate Council and the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee.