Amid Pandemic, Media Should Also Report Recoveries

April 17, 2020

 

As media professionals, we monitor the news outlets – especially in critical times and crucial situations. We do it on behalf of our clients – very often during elections and most certainly when a client has drawn the attention of reporters.

 

I wake up each day to the morning news. And, as a former reporter myself, I believe the reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, while serving to inform the public, has fallen short in one crucial area – telling viewers  how many people have actually recovered from COVID-19.

 

Back at the end of March, I noticed that one local television news station was covering this aspect. They not only reported the number of people who had coronavirus/COVID-19, and the number of local deaths – they also reported how many people had recovered from being ill.

 

I thought, “Good for them. At last, there are some steps to reducing the peripheral pandemic of fear and anxiety.” Each day this station reported the number of people who had recovered – which is, of course, much higher than the number of people who died. To my knowledge, this was the only local news doing so.

 

However, and this is where my mental yellow alert light lit up, starting the week of April 5, this local station stopped reporting the number of recoveries. As of this writing, they have not resumed – at least in the much-viewed morning news.

 

I am not going to offer conspiracy theory speculations; it would be far too easy for me to do that and point fingers. 

 

I will, however, offer this: As I write this on April 17, there have been 147,384 confirmed deaths worldwide from complications resulting from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. By stark contrast, 555,196 people have recovered. In the United States, 33,288 people have died from complications from the virus and a reported 56,257 have recovered.  That number of recoveries is likely much higher because there are many people who were never sick enough to be tested. According to the CDC most people who contract COVID-19 have mild illness and are able to recover at home without medical care.

 

Again, my question is, why is the number of deaths so constantly reported, but the number of recoveries mostly ignored? 

 

Here is another item that is sparsely reported. According to a recent report from the National Institutes of Health, Phase 1 clinical trials for an investigational vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has begun at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. 

 

The biotech company Moderna developed the mRNA-based vaccine, named mRNA-1273. The trials have enrolled 45 healthy volunteers ages 18 to 55 over approximately six weeks. The first subject has already received the investigational vaccine. Moderna’s website offers more details on the tests.

 

Other medical researchers are examining a 100-year old vaccine used to combat tuberculosis called Bacillus Calmette–Guérin or BSG. Early analyses are showing indications that nations requiring inoculation of the vaccine have been less impacted by the coronavirus.

 

I mention all of this to make an important point: Government and the media have a responsibility to not just inform the public and implore people to work together – but also to lessen fear and instill hope. Being repeatedly told there is a light at the end of the tunnel is not enough.

 

People need to see that light, because the virus is not the only pandemic spreading right now – fear also needs to be contained, restrained, diminished and defeated. Information is the vaccine for that infection.

 

Larry Miller is a Special Projects Manager in Ceisler Media's Philadelphia Office.

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