The Pandemic of Fear
So here we are 10 months into a worldwide pandemic. How are we doing? How was public policy formulated? How is it being implemented today? We can be ruled by fear or we can be ruled by reason and example. Fear is the coinage and watchword today. Fear destroys our capacity for critical and rational thinking and decision-making. You know the old expression, “I was so nervous I couldn’t think straight.” That is where we are today. Pursuing The Middle Path.
My pick for one of the all-time great football coaches was Bill Walsh of the 1980’s 49ers. He always scripted the first 15 plays. Everything by the book for the first 15 plays. Then he would reassess based the opposing team’s read and creative reaction. Reassess, call new plays based on today’s game. Here is where we are today. However we got here, despite all missteps, what do we do now going forward?
When I hear politicians say, “let’s follow the science” I say ridiculous. There is no such thing as “the science.” Science is a messy affair. Science is a method of inquiry and derivation of truth in the world. Science is the alternative to myth, superstition and belief. It is a matter of developing hypotheses testing all possibilities, including counterintuitive possibilities and deriving conclusions based on the results of rigorous testing.
There is a definite air of medical arrogance from Dr. Fauci and the CDC. This has not been a fair and open debate. Dissenting views and approaches have been censored and arrogantly dismissed. We shun the courageously crafted Swedish approach.
My glimmer of hope is the Great Barrington Declaration. You should fully read this statement by three highly respected academic epidemiologists.
Dr. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard University, a biostatistician, and epidemiologist with expertise in detecting and monitoring infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety evaluations.
Dr. Sunetra Gupta, professor at Oxford University, an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology, vaccine development, and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases.
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor at Stanford University Medical School, a physician, epidemiologist, health economist, and public health policy expert focusing on infectious diseases and vulnerable populations.
We will return to this in a minute.
The Total Picture
So it is time for reassessment. What we are doing is not comprehensive. We are not looking at the total picture. It is a series of fitful and reactive decisions. It started with unrealistic and wildly pessimistic assumptions from Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College. We have not anticipated the unintended consequences — the collateral damage. As I have said from the very beginning:
The fallout from our decisions and public policy will dwarf the virus.
Please watch my Covid 19 video. From beginning to end. You cannot scan it.
Bottom line. Highly communicable. Low virulence. Please understand this. It is not about “cases.” That is the daily drone.
Contrary to what you hear, this is not the worst pandemic in our lifetime. AIDS has claimed the lives of 35,000,000 people worldwide. 1,000,000 people die of tuberculosis, worldwide every year. More people, and especially teenagers, have taken their lives in suicide since the beginning of this pandemic. Watch Childhood 2.0. Most hospitals are actually underutilized not over utilized. Cancer diagnoses, treatment and elective surgeries are being subordinated and delayed. Homelessness is on the rise. Airline travel down 90%. And the entire restaurant business endangered.
There is a Middle Way
What do we know about this virus? Quite a bit. But it eludes public policy. And it has degenerated into hopeless hyper-political hyperbolic rhetoric. If you are on the Blue Team, you are all for masks and severe restrictions. Protect me at all costs. If you are on the Red Team you don’t believe in masks or restrictions. “Don’t tread on me.”
So here is the first problem. So much of today’s discussion and debate is a series of binary choices. It’s Pink Floyd’s Us or Them.
Us (us, us, us, us) and them (them, them, them, them)
And after all we’re only ordinary men
And you (you, you, you)
God only knows
It’s not what we would choose (choose, choose) to do (to do, to do)
Carl Sagan, in his wonderful book the The Demon Haunted World:Science as a Candle in the Dark lays out a series of logical propositions. In Chapter 12: Baloney Detection he talks about the excluded middle or false dichotomy – considering only 2 extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities. We are looking for simple answers. Science is more messy. It takes time. It takes testing. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.
The most salient warning Carl Sagan gave us:
Arguments from authorities carry little weight – “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
And, finally, watch this a stunning interview with WHO special envoy, Dr. David Nabarro. He was former Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change; He is now advocating the Middle Way. A more sustainable path that avoids all the economic strife and dislocation that we have been suffering.
We need to change course! Lock-downs do not work. It only amplifies human suffering.
Are Masks Protective?
If you will remember early during this pandemic there was a raging debate about the shortage of ventilators. Do you hear this plea or argument any longer? No. Then you were hearing a cry for PPE – personal protective equipment. Masks and other garments. There was a unholy shortage. Why? And then there was no longer shortage. In fact, probably a surplus. So what is the actual science of masks? This can become quite technical. And we can talk about the finer points of aerosolization, micro-droplet size, and N95 masks etc.
In the end, there is no good definitive scientific evidence that masks are fully protective. It is just another assertion.
If masks are fully protective, then why do we need to wear masks and socially distance at the same time? Why are health workers still contracting Covid 19 if they are fully protected by masks and gowns and gloves?
If masks are fully protective why do we walk down the street wearing a mask, but alongside is a row of restaurant tables with people not wearing masks? Since you cannot wear a mask while eating. In other words, worry about the virus in one lane, but not in the adjacent Lane.
Masks have become overly politicized. Another example of the Blue Team promotes masks. The Red Team shuns masks.
The best you can say, in the end, is masks have some utility. That’s it. That is a qualitative and not a quantitative statement. It is better than nothing. Let me repeat. It’s better than nothing.
You see people wearing masks in the center of a field. You see people wearing masks driving around in cars.
Most unfortunately, masks have become a scarlet letter. Subject to vitriolic and self-righteous indignation. Why is it that person not wearing a mask? He is a super spreader. There is a self-righteousness that supersedes rationality.
Back to the Future – The Middle Way
Just to round out this story line read How to Survive a Pandemic by Michael McGregor. Among other voluminous sources he cites the former WHO Director of Communicable Disease Surveillance Response,
history has told is that no one can stop a pandemic.
Is this true or not?
Further, he quotes,
but experts feel that not only would quarantines be wholly impractical and ineffective, they would make matters worse.
To which I fully agree.
The World Health Organization recommends against such measures, in part, given the impracticality of enforcement.
Amplifying Dr. Nabarro’s recent WHO statement and interview.
And finally, he quotes
following the 1916 polio epidemic in New York City, the head of the health department wrote that given the “countless instances of inconvenience, hardship, yes real brutal inhumanity which resulted from the application of the general quarantine, it was no wonder that so many people developed a real and most perverse ingenuity in discovering automobile detours.”
The point of McGregor’s book is, this pandemic is a dress rehearsal for a future pandemics of much more serious proportions involving the H5N1 flu virus. Really? Whoa!
So What Can You Do Now?
All disease is a host response. It’s not the virus as much as how you respond. It’s up to you to enhance your own internal health, well being and immune vigilance. This simple suggestion and admonition is so sadly missing from current public debate and policy enforcement. This is about personal responsibility and action.
The Warp speed Vaccine is not going to stop this pandemic. It is not going to save you. Remdesivir is not saving lives. Flu vaccines do not save lives.
In fact, kind reader, if you have read this so far, your chances of contracting serious illness from this virus is vanishing small.
This is not a pandemic of childhood or younger adults. Send all children back to school immediately. Open up all restaurants and travel.
Reason (his pen name) suggests in this weeks FightAging.org Covid-19 as a disease of aging.
Stop all these country to country and state to state restrictions. We are going to have to learn to co-exist with this virus. It is like a wild land forest fire. Fire fighters know a simple fact. All they can do is contain a massive fire. Only nature eventually stops and ends massive wild land fires. So too with massive world wide pandemics.
Turn off the news. It’s no longer news. It’s groundhog day over and over. 7-8 hours sleep. Get some fresh air. Some exercise. You can safely visit your friends, children and grand kids.
Daily immune enhancement:
- Vitamin D 5000-10,000 units daily
- Zinc 30 mg daily
- Selenium 200 mcg daily
- High quality protein
And finally don’t buy into the frenzy of widespread media sensationalized fear. Strive for courageous and kind actions.
Philip Lee Miller, MD
Carmel, CA Oct 2020