by Reed Spaulding IV, MD
President Trump caused a bit of a commotion this week when he didn’t die from the coronavirus. Much to the dismay of many folks on the left, he seems to be making a nice recovery from his illness. Perhaps what has offended people more than his continued life is the bravado that he is projecting post-hospitalization at Walter Reed. On Monday, he tweeted in part, “Feeling really good. Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” You can almost imagine the blood vessels popping in folks’ eyes over at CNN and MSNBC. In these politically polarized times, while half the country mourns the commander-in-chief’s apparent survival, perhaps it’s worthwhile for all Americans (and indeed, folks all around the world) to reconsider the level of pure panic and fear that our governments and the media have instilled in us.
Trump shoots from the hip and often pisses people off. No shock there. Of course responsible citizens should be concerned about contracting SARS-CoV-2, but should they be irrationally afraid of it?
Coronavirus is certainly deadly in a small percentage of people who become infected, primarily those with advanced age and comorbidities (i.e. folks like Donald Trump). No one is denying that fact, and no serious medical professional would do so. With time comes data, and with data comes a responsibility for the soothsayers to gaze backwards for a change. True, some said early on that unfocused, unilateral lockdowns were detrimental, but those opinions were mostly viewed as outliers. Not so anymore.
The “Great Barrington Declaration” came to be after a meeting of world-renowned epidemiologists, economists, and journalists, sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research. The original signers and co-signers are an impressive group of academicians, including well-respected professors from Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford, to name a few. As I write this, 5,201 public health scientists and 10,217 medical practitioners have signed this petition. The petition calls for what the authors call “focused protection.” Per the declaration:
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.
As the authors point out,
vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.
It’s worthwhile to read the full document. Until now, politicians have sanctimoniously scoffed at those of us who didn’t support drastic lockdowns because we supposedly weren’t “following the science.” Well, this is a declaration from many of the world’s leading epidemiologists who recognize that lockdowns were a mistake.
This document with its ever-growing list of co-signers has important implications for the future. We have to decide what kind of world we are going to live in. Most states still have shutdowns of various flavors in place. Already, Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, is starting the second wave of shutdowns in that city in response to a spike in cases. What does case number even matter if most everyone who contracts the virus survives it? And isn’t there a certain amount of risk that living a free life requires? The notion of locking down completely and going into hiding in response to a virus has never been attempted (at least not to this scale), and it’s important that those of us who value liberty and life stand firm in our assessment of government’s actions over the past year: they have been terribly misguided, they have harmed our lives and livelihoods greatly, and we should never allow this to happen again. Never.
It turns out that President Trump was mostly (but not entirely) correct in his recent Twitter escapade. COVID-19 can be serious and, in very rare cases, unpredictably so. We should all have a reasonable level of fear concerning this virus. We should all take reasonable precautions to prevent spreading this illness. We should not, however, ruin our lives and continue to destroy the engines of the world. It isn’t warranted. The morbidity and mortality rates don’t support it, and a focused approach is far less destructive to the economy and to our overall emotional and physical health. It’s nice to see that increasing numbers of the world’s preeminent public health scientists are finally starting to look at the data and come down on the side of common sense for a change. A bigger challenge will be convincing the bureaucrats and others who are hell-bent on politicizing this situation indefinitely to reconsider. More and more people (scientists and non-scientists alike) will continue to understand just how ridiculous and immoral these shutdowns really are. Logic will eventually triumph. I believe that it always does.
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Reed Spaulding IV, MD, is a practicing pathologist who grew up in rural Kentucky and now splits his time between Kentucky and Indiana. All opinions expressed are his and not those of his employer. Follow him on Twitter @SpauldingMd.