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Bloviating and Bungling the COVID-19 Pandemic

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

Wegwarth and coauthors1 shed some light into why their country of Germany has fared better than the United States in handling the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.1 As of November 1, 2020, for example, the mortality rate per million was 5 times lower in Germany than in the United States (128 vs 715, respectively).2 Indeed, the mortality rate in Germany was lower than almost every American state, including Hawaii. This difference in mortality, morbidity, and lost quality of life is difficult to attribute to medical technology, drug therapy, underlying genetics, environmental factors, or virus characteristics. One contributing factor may be differences in public health messages intended to guide individual behaviors to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.

Article Information

Published: December 10, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.32540

Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License. © 2020 Redelmeier DA et al. JAMA Network Open.

Corresponding Author: Donald A. Redelmeier, MD, MS(HSR), Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, G-151, 2075 Bayview Ave, Toronto, ON M4N 3M5, Canada (dar@ices.on.ca).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Funding/Support: This project was supported by author funding from the Canada Research Chair in Medical Decision Sciences and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The funding organizations had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Additional Contributions: We thank Cindy Kao, BSc (University of Toronto), Kelvin Ng, BSc (University of Toronto), and Robert Redelmeier, BSc (University of Toronto), for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. They were not compensated for their contributions, which were part of usual student activities.

References
1.
Wegwarth  O , Wagner  GG , Spies  C , Hertwig  R .  Assessment of German public attitudes toward health communications with varying degrees of scientific uncertainty regarding COVID-19.   JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(12):e2032335. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.32335Google Scholar
2.
Worldometers. COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. November 1, 2020. Accessed November 3, 2020. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries
3.
Redelmeier  DA , Cialdini  RB .  Problems for clinical judgement, 5: principles of influence in medical practice.   CMAJ. 2002;166(13):1680-1684.PubMedGoogle Scholar
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Howe  LC , MacInnis  B , Krosnick  JA , Markowitz  EM , Socolow  R .  Acknowledging uncertainty impacts public acceptance of climate scientists’ predictions.   Nat Clim Chang. 2019;9:863-867. doi:10.1038/s41558-019-0587-5Google ScholarCrossref
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Slovic  P .  Perception of risk.   Science. 1987;236(4799):280-285. doi:10.1126/science.3563507 PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
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Fetherstonhaugh  D , Slovic  P , Johnson  S , Friedrich  J .  Insensitivity to the value of human life: a study of psychophysical numbing.   J Risk Uncertain. 1997;14(3):283-300. doi:10.1023/A:1007744326393Google ScholarCrossref
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