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Former U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil warned at an Axios virtual event Thursday that the "tremendous amount" of misinformation on social media platforms "creates public distrust at a time when we need it the most," stressing: "It's no small statement to say this is life or death."

What he's saying: "One of the areas that will likely, even if we get a vaccine, cause an issue is will people trust a vaccine? And if we don't address those misinformation issues right now, we are going to have a far extended impact of COVID," Patil, who is now head of technology at Devoted Health, told Axios' Kim Hart.

Driving the news: For the first time, Facebook removed a video post from President Trump on Wednesday in which he claimed that children are "almost immune" to COVID-19. But the platform, along with Twitter and others, still remains rife with misinformation about the pandemic.

  • "Previously, a lot of those conversations, we could try to take our time," Patil said about content moderation on big tech platforms. "Right now, we don't have time on our side."
  • "The platforms have a responsibility right now to figure out what is the right level of action. At a bare minimum it's creating stricter standards for how and what is allowed on their platforms."

The big picture: On the broader question of how technology can be improved to combat the coronavirus crisis, Patil stressed that "we need to stop focusing on the super sexy technologies like machine learning, and rather focus on the bare basics."

  • "We have forgotten that we have not invested in public health in nearly a decade," Patil noted. "The system is not designed to handle a pandemic. And by the way, this is not the last pandemic."
  • "We need to now invest in the infrastructure to ensure that we have the ability to keep taking advantage of the technology to get ahead of this curve that allows us to beat these viruses," Patil said.

Go deeper

Updated 17 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Americans shrug off Omicron, Axios-Ipsos poll finds — CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise."
  2. Vaccines: Omicron gives a shot to boosters — U.S. announces $400M for global COVID vaccine distribution — Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down.
  3. States: Gov. Hochul will order some NY hospitals to halt elective surgeries — Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers.
  4. World: EU drug regulator backs mixing COVID vaccines — Poor global equity likely in COVID pill access — CDC raises travel advisories for France, Portugal to highest level amid COVID surge.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Nov 14, 2020 - Health

COVID hits first cruise ship to return to Caribbean since pandemic stalled industry

The Seadream 1 ship docks in Bodo in Norway in August 2020. Photo: Sondre Skjelvik/NTB Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

The first cruiseliner to return to the Caribbean since the coronavirus pandemic shut the industry down was forced to return to its home port of Barbados after passengers tested positive for COVID-19, the ship's owner, SeaDream Yacht Club, said Thursday.

Why it matters: Cruise ships were the sites of some of the most severe coronavirus outbreaks early in the pandemic, before the industry suspended operations in March.

Nov 13, 2020 - Health

New York's daily COVID-19 case count tops 5,000 for first time since April

People wait in line for COVID-19 testing in Brooklyn. Photo: Xinhua/Michael Nagle via Getty Images

New York state’s daily coronavirus case count has surpassed 5,000 for the first time since April.

By the numbers: Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted on Friday that of the roughly 203,000 COVID-19 tests taken, 5,401 produced positive results. "Total hospitalizations are at 1,737," and the state saw 24 coronavirus-related deaths, per Cuomo.