Masks, Myths, and Medicine – A Conversation with Dr. Bob Morris ’74

To guide the community through an overwhelming rush of information regarding the coronavirus, some of which can be misleading, Dr. Bob Morris ’74, epidemiologist, biostatistician, teacher, and award-winning author, hosted Masks, Myths, and Medicine, a virtual conversation, on Tuesday, May 5. 

Dr. Jared Zelman P’04, medical director, facilitated the conversation, which emphasized the importance of making decisions based on the scientific process – solid evidence and logical inferences. Dr. Morris explained that if a scientist does not process and represent data appropriately, it misleads the public. According to Dr. Morris, readers must be particularly suspicious of results from studies that have not been reviewed and certified by other scientists. Studies are being produced so rapidly that some results have not yet been vetted by experts. Dr. Morris said, “Science has sort of been happening in real time. I don’t think anybody in medical science has seen anything like it because we’re seeing research done two weeks ago…showing up on the news media.”

Dr. Morris also related the idea of masks, myths, and medicine back to COVID-19 and how the scientific process is affecting the school. Many factors, including the status of testing capacity, vaccine development, and the circumstances of international students, have to be considered for the school community to return to life before the pandemic. These factors are determined by whether there is quality research following the scientific process, done over the next several months. Dr. Zelman said, “It is important that students [understand the significance] of well-designed research projects and how incorrect conclusions can be drawn from poorly designed studies.”

The conversation also addressed the relationship between the outbreak, the state of the economy, and how the lack of vaccines will impact the future. Questions that were addressed during the event included the following: How do people balance out the health risks and the economic consequences that follow any decision the nation makes? How will the world’s eagerness to reopen the economy affect the market in the long run? Dr. Morris agreed that it has been a challenging time for everyone. He said, “I think what’s been so stunning is to have a serious disease where we don’t have a vaccine handy…It gives you a whole new respect for infectious diseases.”

In an All-School meeting on Friday, May 8, Mr. Craig Bradley, head of school, explained that The Report of the Higher Education Subcommittee Reopen Connecticut recommends reopening the school when a number of different conditions are met, such as access to testing. View more information on the requirements needed to reopen schools.