Dealing with dissent from the medical ranks: Public health authorities and COVID-19 communication.
During a public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, the public health authorities will typically be criticized for their efforts. When such criticism comes from the ranks of medical personnel, the challenge becomes more pronounced for the authorities, as it suggests a public negotiation of who has sufficient expertise to handle the pandemic. Hence, the authorities are faced with the challenge of defending their competence and advice, while at the same time adhering to a bureaucratic/scientific ethos that imposes communicative boundaries. This explorative study analyzes the response strategies used by the Norwegian public health authorities in this regard. A main finding is that the authorities shunned aggressive language and mostly relied on a strategy pointing to well-established values such as proportionality (between the measures and the gravitas of the epidemiological situation) and relevance (the measures should meet the challenge in question).