Stone Age Doc’s Pandemic Perspective #7
Many of you have probably seen or have become aware of the 51-minute video by two emergency room physicians in Bakersfield, California on You Tube. They proposed that the current lockdown of the country, while justified very early when we had no reliable statistics, no longer is the best strategy. They soon had more than 5 million views but You Tube took down the video because, as they stated, the opinions of these physicians violated community standards.
Regarding the You Tube suppression of the First Amendment: Americans have the right to say things that are factually incorrect, stupid, nasty and vulgar. You will find all the above on You Tube, and frequent use of the F word as well. The doctors were guilty of none of these.
Are the physicians’ statistics flawed? Some of them are, but not any more so than those of W.H.O or the Imperial College. Dr. John Ioannidis, a highly respected professor of medicine, epidemiology and population health at Stanford has some interesting observations on that. (A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data.) He considers the W.H.O report “meaningless” and his calculations of the deaths on the Diamond Princess cruise ship give a fatality rate that ranges from 0.025 to 0.625% in a population of older persons. Cruise ship travelers tend to be in the older demographic and the majority of those passengers had comorbidities including heart, lung and kidney disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The publication by USC and the L.A. County Department of Health (who only studied persons with symptoms, for which they do not apologize) on April 20th states that the number of infected persons could be from 28 to 55 times higher than current estimates. They also state that the fatality rate is “much lower” than had been thought.
Drs. Erickson and Massihi, the Bakersfield physicians, did acknowledge that earlier lack of the true figures did justify the early quarantines but that the most recent data do not. They are not alone. The governments of Sweden and New Zealand (the latter admittedly not at high risk because they shut down entry into their country very early) as well as several U.S. governors agree with them. Data vary from state to state and even between counties, leading to mind-boggling differences in policy. As some governors relax their restrictions some are tightening them.
It concerns me that so few persons in authority realize that exposing children to the virus could greatly accelerate the development of herd immunity. Keeping schools closed makes no sense even though the teachers, bus drivers, etc. might have the serious comorbidities of obesity and diabetes. Proper screening, which is now available throughout the country, could vastly lower their risk. On the other hand, influenza is taking a terrible toll on our children this season – more than 140 deaths by early March. With very rare exceptions, the only kids below the age of 10 who died from the coronavirus have had underlying problems such as asthma and congenital heart disease.
Could the doctors in Bakersfield have a selfish interest? Not any more so than the drug companies that will soon (I hope) start selling the coronavirus vaccine or the maker of remdesivir, just recently released by the FDA.
Is it the doctors’ intent to corner the market on testing in the Central Valley as their critics have complained? That idea gives them too much credit. Where is the Bakersfield Health Department? Isn’t that their bailiwick?
In my view this is very much a matter of the forest/trees challenge. We are keeping the healthy from developing immunity; domestic abuse and suicide are already increasing; the crime rate in New York is rising significantly. Unemployment? A disaster for the owners of restaurants and golf courses but not for those who sell alcohol or marijuana.
As always, I value your feedback.