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Speaking Out Against the Media’s Stoking of Covid Derangement Syndrome

Jay Bhattacharya and Christos Makridis, writing at The Hill, are properly critical of the media’s hysterical stoking of Covid Derangement Syndrome. (“Covid Derangement Syndrome,” to be clear, is my term, not theirs.) Two slices:

The media relish negative news. “If it bleeds it leads” still holds, and perhaps it’s never been truer than in the COVID-19 era. Every day the news highlights the spread of the virus and tells the sad stories of some of its victims.

And yet, much of the media does not pay sufficient attention to the good news regarding improved treatments and survival of patients with the coronavirus. In contrast with the international media, the American press has been unrelentingly negative in its COVID coverage, even when there is good news to tell. That negativity is part of what fuels a culture of fear that affects local, state and federal politicians and the decisions they make.

But there is a lot of good news to tell. The case fatality rate from the virus has dropped sharply since March. The infection survival rate is 99.95 percent for people under 70 and 95 percent for people over 70. Hospitals are much better equipped to handle patients, with improved ventilator protocols, improved management of outpatients and new therapeutic strategies to provide relief and recoveries. Moreover, thanks to multiple ongoing clinical trials around the world, there may soon be a safe and effective vaccine.


Though there has been some coverage of lockdown harms, the media have not paid the same attention to it as they have to COVID deaths. If there is a COVID-death tracker, there should be side-by-side with it a lockdown-death tracker.

The lack of balanced media attention towards the good news about the virus and the costs of lockdowns comes with its own cost. Without a balanced approach to COVID news, the public cannot make informed choices about COVID policy, such as school closures. Even a diligent citizen cannot make an informed judgment about the wisdom of continuing lockdowns if only their benefits are emphasized and their costs downplayed. The media have an obligation to show both.