October 20th, 2019
By Marilyn M. Singleton, MD, JD
The media, taking their cue from George Orwell’s 1984’s daily “Two Minute Hate,” provide a constant drumbeat of one-sided political talking points and incomplete statistics about COVID-19. It is designed to wear us down. The recovery of President Trump and many others gives us another side of the picture.
When questioned about motives for the unrelenting negativity, folks say they are following the science. This statement merits an historical note of caution about comingling politics and science. Nikolai Vavilov had data-driven work that was an accurate exposition of agricultural genetics. Unfortunately, Trofim Lysenko’s patently wrong, but Marxist leaning ideas on the science of agriculture caught the eye of Joseph Stalin. Lysenko buried Vavilov’s work, thousands starved, and Vavilov rotted in prison. This episode in science gave rise to an ism: Lysenkoism is any deliberate distortion of scientific facts or theories for purposes that are deemed politically, religiously or socially desirable.
Decades later we are left to tune in to the next episode of political theater, featuring “do as I say, not as I do.” One of Ms. Pelosi’s pastimes is lecturing the President on the value of wearing a mask. Then we see Ms. Pelosi sashaying around with no mask; her designer mask flopping around with her exposed nose (that harbors the bulk of the coronavirus). And in a when the camera’s away, the mice will play moment, Mr. Biden doffed his ever-present, over-sized mask to speak with Anderson Cooper face to face. And for comic relief, Mr. Biden lowered his mask to cough in his hand—not even his elbow!
Where’s the science? As time has passed and we gain more knowledge and data about the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, scientists have found several fold lower mortality rates than previously predicted. The CDC has some good news regarding the infection fatality ratio (IFR), the ratio of deaths divided by the number of actual infections with SARS-CoV-2:
- Age 0-19 years: 0.00003, meaning 99.997% of that age group who get the infection will survive;
- Age 20-49 years: 0.0002, meaning 99.98% of that age group who get the infection will survive;
- Age 50-69 years: 0.005, meaning 99.5% of that age group who get the infection will survive;
- Age 70+ years: 0.054, meaning 94.6% of that age group who get the infection will survive.
Additionally, in the United States, hospitalizations and deaths are down, cases—even with more testing—are leveling off and more successful treatments are available.
Joe Biden tells us that when he wants to learn about COVID, he consults “the scientists,” one of whom is Ezekiel “let me die when I’m 75” Emanuel. Dr. Emanuel, a breast oncologist, believes we should stay in a lockdown until November 2021. He also is the co-creator of the Complete Lives System.” This medical care rationing system prioritizes persons with “instrumental value,” i.e., individuals with “future usefulness.” Joe Biden should watch his back.
California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has admitted that he saw “the potential” in the COVID crisis for “a new progressive era” in state and national politics. Instead of using the CDC data and science to lift restrictions of the activities of the residents, he established a new parameter: the Equity Metric. No one in a county can open until the test positivity rates in its most disadvantaged neighborhoods are not worse than the overall county positivity rate.
This is just what we need: prolonging lockdowns when data have shown they are harmful to society. The CDC reported that 40 percent of thousands surveyed reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition. Thirteen percent started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 lockdowns. Eleven percent seriously considered suicide. Moreover, despite increases in telemedicine, evaluations of cardiovascular risk factors have dropped by 50 percent. Between March 1 and April 18, 2020 there was a 46 percent decrease in diagnoses of the six common cancer types. The World Health Organization has finally admitted that lockdowns “make the poor an awful lot poorer.” All of these factors will lead to increase in non-COVID related deaths.
Internationally noted epidemiologists and thousands of physicians from multiple specialties have a solution called “focused protection.” The Great Barrington Declaration posits that “the most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.”
Squirrels are the cutest little rats with fur you’d ever want to see. But they do carry bubonic plague that is fatal without treatment. We do not kill all the squirrels. Let’s not kill our souls and optimism, terrify our elders into deadly isolation, psychologically cripple our children, and sentence our society to a generation of anxiety and depression, merely to score political points.
Dr. Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist and Immediate Past President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).. She graduated from Stanford and earned her MD at UCSF Medical School. Dr. Singleton completed 2 years of Surgery residency at UCSF, then her Anesthesia residency at Harvard’s Beth Israel Hospital. While still working in the operating room, she attended UC Berkeley Law School, focusing on constitutional law and administrative law. She interned at the National Health Law Project and practiced insurance and health law. She teaches classes in the recognition of elder abuse and constitutional law for non-lawyers. She lives in Oakland, Ca.