News & Politics

Medical Experts Appear on 'Life, Liberty, and Levin' to Urge Leaders to Reopen America

Mark Levin speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Source: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0).

On this week’s episode of Life, Liberty, and Levin, Mark Levin spoke with two public health experts about the COVID-19 pandemic. The two doctors agreed that, while not downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus crisis, America should begin to gradually open back up for businesses. They urged the collection of much more data than we have now, and urged that we get back to normal in stages to avoid negative consequences. But they firmly stated that America needs to open back up.

The first guest, Dr. David Katz, is president of True Health Initiative and the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, as well as a board-certified specialist in preventive medicine and public health. He wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on March 20, as many forced social distancing measures first began, that opened:

We routinely differentiate between two kinds of military action: the inevitable carnage and collateral damage of diffuse hostilities, and the precision of a “surgical strike,” methodically targeted to the sources of our particular peril. The latter, when executed well, minimizes resources and unintended consequences alike.

As we battle the coronavirus pandemic, and heads of state declare that we are “at war” with this contagion, the same dichotomy applies. This can be open war, with all the fallout that portends, or it could be something more surgical. The United States and much of the world so far have gone in for the former. I write now with a sense of urgency to make sure we consider the surgical approach, while there is still time.

On the show this week, Dr. Katz reiterated his points. He says,

I understand the potential for a contagion like this to hurt people. To kill people. I’m also trained in social determinants of health, and how food insecurity and unemployment and social upheaval can translate into health devastation. So at the very beginning of all this, I was drawn to global data, the data coming out of China, the data coming out of South Korea. And it was apparent in the patterns … that there were these massive risk differentials. There were people at very high risk of coronavirus from infection and potential death, and there appeared to be a much greater segment of the population that was at massively lower risk. If that was true, a one-size-fits-all interdiction strategy – essentially, let’s keep everybody away from everybody, shut everything down – had potential to hurt more people than it helped. And it wasn’t the only option.

Katz says he advocated for a closer look at the risk tiers to make more surgical decisions about which segments of the population to protect from infection, and which segments of society needed to continue to operate to avoid collateral damage. He notes, while the pandemic and its associated deaths are indeed tragic, 1,000 times as many people are being affected by societal disruption, “and that matters too.”

Levin’s second guest was Dr. John Ioannidis, who is a professor of medicine, statistics, epidemiology, and population health at Stanford University. Dr. Ioannidis bemoans the lack of reliable data available when analyzing our response to COVID-19. In studying the fatality rate of COVID-19, he wrote a paper that concluded:

The COVID-19 death risk in people [under] 65 years old during the period of fatalities from the epidemic was equivalent to the death risk from driving between 9 miles per day (Germany) and 415 miles per day (New York City)

He also notes that we don’t know how long social distancing measures should continue, and we have in many cases not considered the consequences to the economy, society, and mental health. In his interview with Mark Levin, he agrees with Dr. Katz that the strategy should, rather, focus on protecting high-risk individuals:

I started looking at what type of information we had available, and how solid is the evidence that is guiding decisions that have monumental impact on saving lives, and also potentially harming lives because of the consequences of some of the measures. It became very obvious to me that the evidence that we had through the early phases of the pandemic was utterly unreliable. We had to make decisions on whatever we had. I think we did the right thing to act decisively and urgently. However, many of the numbers that were circulating were based on how many patients we were seeing who had symptoms or got tested and then how many of those died. It’s possible that there was just the tip of the iceberg, that many more people could have been infected, and actually these were never documented, never tested. So the denominator might have been much larger.

This is an important point. The early estimates put the death rate at 3.4% of those diagnosed. Dr. Ioannidis noted that the computer models projecting millions of deaths from COVID-19 around the globe were built on these assumptions. “That’s not true,” Ioannidis says. “It is completely off. It is just an astronomical error. Over the last several weeks, we have begun collecting data that show that, indeed, there is an iceberg. We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. There’s far more people who are infected with this virus. The majority of them don’t even realize they’ve been infected. They are asymptomatic, or they have very mild symptoms that they would not even bother to do anything about.”

Ioannidis says that the data now show that it’s not one out of thirty, or one out of a hundred who will die from the infection. It’s one out of a thousand. He reiterates the point that there are some people who are at much higher risk than others.

Both doctors conclude that it is time to gradually, in stages, begin to relax the social distancing orders based on a much more complete understanding of the way COVID-19 is actually spread.

The entire episode is available on the Fox News website.

Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available now at www.WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Jeff hosts a podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain. You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff.

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