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Opinion: Declassify COVID-19 info

Lisa Rosenberg

Reports of a possible coronavirus vaccine by January and promising clinical trial results for the potential treatment of COVID-19 symptoms provide a ray of hope in weeks of otherwise dire news about the pandemic. But even in the best-case scenario, if a new administration begins on January 20, the new president will be required to take bold steps to ensure that the United States will never again be so unprepared for a crisis. 

Secrecy and misinformation from the highest levels of government have worsened the effect of COVID-19. And although sunlight may not be the best disinfectant when it comes to the coronavirus, shining a light on our response, and guaranteeing transparency around future preparedness, will begin to treat the disease that has infected our democratic institutions.

A closed sign is shown at Romeo & Juliet Furniture and Appliances with an empty parking lot in Detroit, Thursday, April 2, 2020.

Once a vaccine or treatment is in sight, it may be tempting to put the coronavirus era behind us. But failure to take a hard look at our response is naive and dangerous and will leave us vulnerable to similar or worse outcomes in the future. 

A nonpartisan 9/11-type commission must detail what went wrong and what we could do better if faced with another crisis, and the results of such an inquiry must be made public. To facilitate a greater understanding of the United States’ response to the pandemic, the next administration must also declassify and release COVID-19 information that was inappropriately classified by the current president. There can be no coverup. And if corruption or deliberate wrongdoing tainted this administration’s response to the pandemic, there must be accountability.

In the midst of this crisis, much is unknown. Will we get sick? Are our jobs secure? What will our communities look like when it is safe to return to some semblance of normal life? But where there is information that should be known — facts related to the science of the virus, our preparedness, and the impact of the outbreak — it is incumbent upon our leaders to inform the public.  

Lisa Rosenberg is the executive director of Open The Government, a non-partisan government transparency and accountability coalition. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.