We see long lines outside emergency rooms and Costco stores. Refrigerated tractor-trailers are being used to store corpses in New York City. And people are growing more anxious by the day at what we hear from those who are tasked with guiding us through this ordeal. At a time when it has never been easier to communicate with the public, and perhaps never more important to do so, the people in charge of addressing the coronavirus crisis seem incapable of speaking with anything close to a united voice.

People want to feel safe. They expect those in charge to be competent and working in unison, even in an election year. And they want to know how to tell when we’ve turned a corner. Will it be a decline in the infection rate? The hospitalization rate? The mortality rate? Is the goal to ramp up the diagnostic testing as quickly as possible, isolate those who are infected, and allow the others to get on with their lives? Why can’t our public officials—with a few exceptions—spell out these answers with any clarity or consistency?

How tough can it be for the politicians and their public health advisers to get on the same page before sounding off on, say, the promise and efficacy of repurposing antimalarial drugs to fight the pandemic?