Mixed Messages And Sudden Policy Changes Sow Confusion, Opposition To Covid Guidelines

Rapidly changing crisis situations often demand equally rapid changes to strategies and tactics to deal with them. Even when new guidelines and policies are justified, they can create doubt and frustration in the minds of those affected by the crisis.

Take Covid, for example.

Over the past two years efforts to address the crisis have been marked by a series of confusing and contradictory statements, mixed messages and abrupt policy changes from Republican and Democratic administrations alike. All of which have created confusion—and even opposition this week from the American Medical Association—and prolonged and made the crisis even worse.

As we begin the third year of the pandemic, clear, concise and consistent messaging—an important part of communicating about any crisis—is getting harder to find.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that, “Inside the administration, frustration has also been mounting. Officials acknowledge the rapidly changing virus complicates the pandemic response, but some worry [the CDC’s director’s] public statements have only added to many Americans’ confusion. At times, her guidance has also been at odds with that of other senior administration officials, most notably, that of Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser.”

As the Huffington Post noted, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for isolating is dense and can be somewhat confusing—especially since the rules seem to be in constant flux based on community transmission levels and people’s vaccination status.”

Learning To Live With Covid

Threatening to make matters even worse, the New York Post reported that “President Biden said Friday that Americans will have to learn to live with Covid-19 long-term but that things will ‘be better’—despite CDC Director Rochelle Walensky warning that U.S. coronavirus cases are poised to hit new record highs almost two years into the pandemic.”


The Hill reported Friday that, “Several health advisers to President Biden’s transition team are calling on the administration to revamp its Covid-19 pandemic strategy and set clear goals for what the ‘new normal’ of living with the virus will look like.

“In three separate op-eds published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the authors recommended dozens of strategies that go above and beyond what the Biden administration is currently doing.

“But they said the administration needs to clearly communicate the current goals and strategies, instead of shifting from one crisis to another. For instance, they said it was shortsighted for Biden to declare last summer that the U.S. has ‘gained the upper hand against this virus.’”

‘Mixed Messages And Dashed Hopes’

Dr. Spencer Kroll is an internist and partner at the Kroll Medical Group. He observed that, “The country is experiencing pandemic fatigue, in part because of mixed messaging and dashed hopes. Although government health experts provide well intended advice, there has been a lack of credibility, derived from a generalized perception that these experts seem quick to provide reassurance, while failing to recognize and identify the pandemic uncertainties that still exist.  

External Criticism

“The unclear guidelines about testing and isolation for infected individuals led to a turnaround in government policy after considerable external criticism.  The initial CDC recommendation, for people to self-test and then self-isolate for 5 days, shifts enormous responsibility to individuals and their willingness to be accountable and truthful,” Kroll said. 

Miscalculations By The Government

“One of the greatest miscalculations of the government during this pandemic is to assume that people will do things in a selfless manner to protect their fellow citizen:  the push back on masks and vaccination has proven that.  

“By possibly recognizing that people might feel more comfortable with those who are infected will self-test themselves when ending isolation may address this, but undermines confidence in the government health experts’ advice by not recognizing this from the outset,” he observed.

Creating Their Own Guidelines

“Business leaders have learned to create their own guidelines for worker safety- including quarantine rules for workers and vaccination requirements. The Biden administration has signaled that it will continue to shift strategies for controlling the virus to individuals and businesses.

“Our fractionated and decentralized form of governmental response should be reconsidered with the federal government seizing more control rather than just providing oversight,” Kroll recommended.

Advice For Business Leaders

‘Default To Clear And Concise Messaging’

“Leading through either change or crisis requires a comprehensive and fully aligned approach,” said Sarah Stempky-Kime, the managing partner and a trial attorney at the law firm Christensen Law. “A response team and a crisis management plan should be in place to deal with whatever may arise, at any time, as well as a trusted voice to speak with staff, and/or the press. 

“In critical times, when decisions by necessity must be made on the fly, you must default to clear and concise messaging, and not waver from that. Be honest, admit that the situation may be fluid and that you are constantly evaluating information to respond appropriately,” she said.

“Overconfidently stating ‘we got this’ won’t alleviate concerns, indeed, it may exacerbate them. Model a calm demeanor and ensure all of management is up-to-speed with the messaging, so you can provide a united, supportive front to your team,” Stempky-Kime advised.

The Tycoon Herald