Jim Zachary: Where COVID-19 info comes from matters

No one knows everything.

You can be really smart, even a genius, and not know everything.

You can be the person in authority, in a position to make important decisions, but still not know everything you need to know in order to make the best decision.

That's when listening and humility become the truest marks of intelligence.

Whether the wisdom of the herd, or the wisdom of experts, being able to listen, really listen, toward making informed decisions requires a kind of humility rarely seen in people who hold power and position.

Still, in desperate times that is exactly the kind of leadership we need the most.

When it comes to our present distress, very few people are experts.

Infectious diseases are complicated.

Epidemiology is an extremely specialized field of study.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is novel because it had never been seen before and, of course, that means very little is known about it, even among the experts.

Researchers, scientists and the medical community learn more and more about it every day.

They are the experts.

Journalists are certainly not the experts and neither are politicians.

Most certainly, people posting on Facebook and Twitter are not the experts.

When it comes to the real experts — the scientists — we may not always be able to understand everything they are saying.

They may occasionally use words we have to look up.

They may not be the most engaging, or entertaining public speakers.

They may not play to the crowd and tell us the things we want to hear.

But the scientists are the very people who actually know what they are talking about; and the people we should all be listening to when it comes to the things we need to know — and do — in the battle against this virus.

Saying something confidently, adamantly and loudly, with a few zingers thrown in here and there for good measure, does not make it true.

The science may not be titillating but it is how we get through this crisis.

Vilifying scientists and the science is completely mindless and, more importantly, dangerous.

Politicians have their skill sets.

They know a lot of things.

They may even be experts in certain areas but not when it comes to infectious disease control. Being able to admit what you don't know and listen to those who do know is a real strong sign of intelligence and strong leadership.

All lawmakers and all bureaucrats at all levels — federal, state and local government — should not only listen to the science but follow it.

In the battle against the coronavirus, and in life, listening to the right people is crucial.

But listening requires humility.

CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is the editor of the Valdosta Daily Times, the Tifton Gazette and president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

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