Killer Press Conferences: Experts and Leadership “Bite the Dust”

di Joe Volpe del April 11, 2020

Put on your best clothes; shave (or put on make-up, as the case may be), rehearse and put up a brave front when times are tough – project confidence, mom would say.

Generally speaking, press conferences are conducted to inform (explain) and reassure the clientele that there is a steady hand on the rudder - especially in stormy weather and choppy seas, metaphorically speaking.

But this is Canada. Forgive my cynicism, I am beginning to get the impression that we are living under the illusion that says: “if it doesn’t happen here first, it’s inconsequential; and even if it were, we have the expertise and wherewithal to deal with it”.

As recently as April 8, the premier of Ontario was boasting that Ontario’s doctors and scientists are the best in the world and our healthcare system is without parallel, our Ministers and administrators beyond reproach. He was echoing federal and provincial counterparts around the country.

In fact, until a few weeks ago, our Leaders reassured us that the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) was really a Chinese issue - couldn’t happen here, we were told. Besides, our experts said, we had learned a lot from our experience with SARS in 2002-2003 (SARS is a related Coronavirus and no longer new). They have never told us what they learned – if anything – nor do they appear to have shared it with their political masters.

Dr. Fauci, executive Director of the National Institute for Health in the USA, candidly admitted three weeks ago “we have no data” regarding Covid-19 that the American “scientific experts” could cite to inform policy-makers (leaders) on courses of action to take, short, medium or long-term.

To be fair, he was referring to the “science” – the microbiological pathology of the virus, the chemical-biological dynamics of the disease and how to intervene scientifically to kill it before it sickens or kills the host bodies it infects. A medical, scientific solution is at least three months away, he said optimistically, realistically much longer.

He and his team didn’t turn to our “experts” for the data. It’s understandable.

As of April 9, Ontario had only just begun a “serious” testing for the contagion of Covid-19 among the population. He professed shock and disappointment (“unacceptable”, he said) to learn that Ontario had been ill-equipped to conduct systematic testing necessary to assess the spread of the disease, the rate of its growth, the rate of survival for those infected and rate of death for its unfortunate victims.

He should be angry. The 3,000 tests per day for 14,500,000 inhabitants, are small compared to the 6,977 conducted per million inhabitants in the USA, and embarrassment when compared even to the Canadian average of 9,812 per million. Both Canadian figures are absolutely shameful compared to the Italian standard of 14,114 tested per million. Italy has already tested 853,369 (as of April 9).

One guess as to where Dr. Fauci, who does not speak Italian, went for an indication of “best practices” that might be the best next steps. Italy, with the second highest ranked health care system in the world, has been providing publicly the breakdown of the numbers in the categories listed above for at least two months.

The tracking of the contagion, the effectiveness of non-medical (scientific) measures, the survival rates and the age/gender demographic have been made available as a public service to all the newspapers and media outlets – together with tables, graphs and charts. Mathematical models have been built on these. Johns Hopkins University incorporated them – and now others as well - in their tracking model for the same reason.

The more the better. The disease doesn’t recognize national or provincial boundaries. The Premier of Alberta, with a serious downcast demeanor, predicts that his province could see up to 40,000 deaths once the province testing reaches 800,000 (that’s a 20% fatality rate). Italy has already tested beyond that number and its fatality rate (proven dead as a percentage of those infected) is only 12.50% so far.

Canada’s “experts” are sowing doubt on their own advice to policy makers: masks work/or they don’t work; ventilators are crucial to the survival of the infected/they don’t help in 40%-80% of the cases…and so on. Doom and gloom is the order of the day.

So far, the strategies that seem to work are as follows: stay away from people, no speaking “moistly” (don’t spray saliva when you speak), wash your hands, clean surfaces touched by others.

The Italian tracking, two months ago, alerted anyone and everyone that mitigation strategies should also consider conditions where the most at risk congregate: seniors’ residences. Pinecrest in Bobcaygeon Ontario is classic – 29 of 65 residents died with Covid-19 as a cause or a complicating factor.

Italian magistrates have started to prepare charges of criminal neglect against the Administrators of such homes. It’s all in the interest of transparency and the desire uphold a sacred value central to our society: responsibility for those most vulnerable.


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