New York CNN Business  — 

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Covering coronavirus has never been easy — and the task journalists face has become even more complex in the recent days and weeks. Sometimes, in such scenarios, it can be helpful to step back and question some of the basic aspects of the way stories are being reported and discussed. That is what I did on Wednesday and I was left with six ideas about how to improve coverage across the board.

  1. Focus on the geographical regions driving key numbers up: States like Florida, and Louisiana, and Alabama and others in the South are primarily responsible for driving the hospitalization numbers up in the US. There might be an uptick in cases in other areas, but because more of the population is immunized against the coronavirus, hospitalizations and deaths remain lower. That should be clear in coverage.
  2. Ask probing questions of the CDC and government officials: The CDC says that areas of the country seeing more than 50 cases per 100,000 people amounts to “substantial” spread in the community. How did the agency arrive at that threshold? Do news orgs agree with the CDC on that? And why isn’t the latest CDC guidance tied to local vaccination rates? We know the spread of the virus is much slower in areas that have higher vaccination rates, but this is not reflected in the CDC’s guidance.
  3. Ask for the data: As Dr. Sanjay Gupta said on CNN Wednesday, the CDC owes the public the data on breakthrough cases that it said was a major factor in its new guidance. When will we get to see it?
  4. Make sure people affected by policy recommendations are represented: Eli Klein, an art gallery owner in NYC where hospitalizations and deaths are low, tweeted Wednesday, “A mask mandate is a slowdown for all indoor entertainment venues, stadiums, gyms, theaters, concert halls, clubs, malls, stores, OFFICES, etc.. People don’t want to do these things if they have to cover their face.” He pointed out that a mask mandate in NYC “would diminish tourism & beat up those already crushed by Covid restrictions.” Let’s hear more from voices like his.
  5. Reframe the conversation: Much of the conversation playing out on cable news is about masks. But that should only be one part of the conversation. Masks are the Band-Aid while vaccines are the permanent solution. What about asking why the Biden admin abandoned the idea of vaccine passports, which doctors keep saying would help encourage vaccinations and allow those who are vaccinated not to live under mask mandates?
  6. Don’t erase unvaccinated adults from the picture: Let’s hear more, not less, from eligible adults who have chosen to not protect themselves. Why have they made that decision? Where do they get their news from? What could/would change their mind? Less than half of the US population is fully vaccinated, which means we’re talking about a lot of people who feel like this – and a lot of people at risk…

For the record, part one

– WaPo’s editorial board: “If we truly want this miserable pandemic to end, we have to act — together, and with a clear sense of what it will take to put it behind us…” (WaPo)

– David Leonhardt breaks down the “polarization problem and a communication problem” facing the CDC… (NYT)

– Tucker Carlson continued fear mongering about the vaccines Wednesday. Dartmouth’s Brendan Nyhan remarked, “We’re so desensitized but Fox is choosing to beam this nonsense out to millions of people every day during a deadly pandemic. Lives are literally at stake…” (Twitter)

– Dr. Aaron E. Carroll notes how reality is very different for vaccinated and unvaccinated people: “Despite this difference, reporting on the relative percentage of Delta cases every day is causing vaccinated people to panic and sowing some doubt about the effectiveness of vaccinations…” (NYT)

– A reminder there is so much we don’t know about Covid: “This is a puzzler. Coronavirus cases are plummeting in Britain. They were supposed to soar. Scientists aren’t sure why they haven’t…” (WaPo)

Tech and entertainment giants react to changing circumstances

>> Twitter said that it has “made the decision” to close its opened offices in New York and San Francisco and “pause future office reopenings…”

>> Google said that it will delay its return to office from September until October. The company also said that it will mandate vaccinations for employees….

>> Facebook said that all of its employees will need to be vaccinated before they return to the office…

>> Apple said it will restore a mask mandate at most of its stores in the US for employees and customers. That will apply to those who are vaccinated as well…

>> Netflix said it will mandate that staff working adjacent to talent will need to be vaccinated…

>> Disney said it will require masks, regardless of vaccination status, at Disneyland and Walt Disney World…

“Corporate America’s vaccine floodgates are opened”

That’s how journalist Benjy Renton put it, linking to this CNN story. David Frum on “Erin Burnett OutFront” predicted Wednesday night that “by this time next month, the majority of Fortune 500 companies will be saying you have to be vaccinated if you want to work for us. This is the pandemic of the willfully unvaccinated — the anti-socially unvaccinated…”

For the record, part two

– “Researchers found that vaccine resistance among people who get their info from Facebook was second only to Newsmax viewers,” Whitney Kimball writes… (Gizmodo)

– “A year-old watchdog group placed body bags in front of Facebook’s offices in Washington, D.C., as part of a protest over disinformation on the social network,” Erin Carson reports… (CNET)

– “Let’s keep the vaccine misinformation problem in perspective”: Gilad Edelman says that “social media is not the reason the pandemic hasn’t been conquered…” (WIRED)