Doctors: Shut downs counter decades of medical science; overestimation of fatality rates caused unwarranted panic


(The Center Square) – Some doctors, economists and educators argue stay-at-home orders defy data and medical science, and are hurting young people the most.

Former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center, Dr. Scott Atlas, says an overestimation of the fatality rate of those infected has created an unwarranted panic.

In a column published by The Hill, he said, “The overwhelming majority of people do not have any significant risk of dying from COVID-19.”

Pointing to a recent Stanford University antibody study, he explained that the data indicates a fatality rate of infection from the coronavirus of between 0.1 and 0.2 percent, a risk far lower than previous World Health Organization estimates, which were 20 to 30 times higher and motivated isolation policies.

In California, the positive tests are at least 12 percent with a .003 percent death rate, two Bakersfield Emergency Room doctors calculated. Other reports conducted in California indicate those with antibodies total in the hundreds of thousands in counties whose residents have not been counted or factored into the data the state is reporting.

In New York, Dr. Daniel G. Murphy, an emergency physician on the frontlines dealing with the coronavirus at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, argued inordinate fear is misguiding the public response. “COVID-19 is more prevalent than we think,” he explained. “Many New Yorkers already have the COVID-19 infection, whether they are aware of it or not. As of today, over 43 percent of those tested are positive in The Bronx.”

In an op-ed in the New York Post, he wrote, “COVID-19 has been the worst health care disaster of my 30-year ­career, because of its intensity, duration and potential for lasting impact. The lasting impact is what worries me the most. And it’s why I now believe we should end the lockdown and rapidly get back to work.”

In New York state, two-thirds of patients who died due to complications from the virus were over 70 years old; more than 95 percent were over 50 years old; and 90 percent of all fatalities involved an underlying illness, Atlas said.

“Of 6,570 confirmed COVID-19 deaths fully investigated for underlying conditions to date, 6,520, or 99.2 percent, had an underlying illness,” Atlas explained. “If you do not already have an underlying chronic condition, your chances of dying are small, regardless of age. And young adults and children in normal health have almost no risk of any serious illness from COVID-19.”

According to CNN, nearly 3 million COVID-19 cases were expected to be infected in the U.S., yet a mere fraction of this projection has yet to materialize.

“It’s important that we listen to medical professionals on the frontlines to balance the rhetoric against the politically motivated and media outlets,” David Balat, director of the Right on Healthcare initiative with Texas Public Policy Foundation, told The Center Square.

“According to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel last month, the U.S. was supposed to have 100 million cases of confirmed COVID-19 cases that would result in rationed services across the country,” he said. “These estimates and others have thankfully been revised downward significantly.”

In light of death rates of less than a hundredth or thousandth of one percent, many argue young people should be returning to work and going back to college.

In a New York Times op-ed, Brown University President Christina Paxson argued, “the reopening of college and university campuses in the fall should be a national priority.” If students don’t return, Paxson said, Brown could lose as much as half of its revenue.

Nick Gillespie, editor at large at Reason, agreed, adding, “In fact, it should be a national priority to open up as much of American society to younger people as soon as possible. Not only are they far more likely to survive COVID-19, they are the ones ultimately bearing much of the cost of the lockdown in terms of missed opportunities to learn and work.”

According to preliminary data from the CDC, only 0.001 percent of deaths from COVID-19 involved people under age 25 with no underlying health conditions.

Continuing stay-at-home orders and a national or statewide lockdown makes no medical sense, Atlas argued. “We know from decades of medical science that infection itself allows people to generate an immune response — antibodies — so that the infection is controlled throughout the population by ‘herd immunity,’” he said.

“In this virus, we know that medical care is not even necessary for the vast majority of people who are infected. It is so mild that half of infected people are asymptomatic… [which has been] falsely portrayed as a problem requiring mass isolation.

“In fact, infected people without severe illness are the immediately available vehicle for establishing widespread immunity,” Atlas said. “By transmitting the virus to others in the low-risk group who then generate antibodies, they block the network of pathways toward the most vulnerable people, ultimately ending the threat. Extending whole-population isolation would directly prevent that widespread immunity from developing.”

Some states have eased their stay-at-home orders while others have eased them. Roughly 22 million people filed for unemployment in March and April in response to state shutdowns, and the U.S. Gross Domestic Product shrank by 4.8 percent in the first quarter, the first negative GDP since the first quarter of 2014.

Bethany Blankley is a contributor to The Center Square

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