I believe that in 2020, scientists and public health experts can only report the complete, unvarnished truth, as they believe it to be. We cannot and must not attempt to distort our ideas in an effort to generate responses we think might occur. I hold this position for four reasons.
1. The information gap no longer exists. Experts are not inherently smarter, more analytical, or logical than members of the lay public. Perhaps in the past, they preferentially had access to certain types of insider information. In the modern world, due to the internet, this information gap no longer exists. This dramatically changes the game.
An expert cannot distort the message to the public because too many in the public can directly interrogate the source material. In this case, that means: models estimating herd immunity thresholds or the data underlying community mask use, drawing their own conclusions. If an expert seeks to distort their view of the science to further a behavioral change amongst the public, the risk of detection is high — at least by some in the public. As such, it runs the risk of immediate backlash and the ensuing loss of credibility.