(EDITOR’S NOTE: Opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Healthcare Michigan or its publisher)
By ALLAN DOBZYNIAK, MD
The reaction to the COVID-19 virus hysteria is financially devastating to Michigan’s hospitals and many others throughout the country and world. The burning question is whether all of this is necessary. Hospitals have been devastated by erroneous assumptions based on incomplete, premature and error-laden data. This has led to flawed models, given credence from a consensus of two physicians. Finally, politics has warped clear analysis and solutions. The idea that there might be a middle ground regarding hospitals’ economic vulnerabilities and that of the livelihoods of millions of others in the United States is totally absent from discussions. Factually, there were many fewer cases, many fewer deaths, plenty of ventilators and plenty of hospital beds.
Worse, as increasingly reliable data is available, reasonable change in policy has lagged. The flu season just ending has caused more infections, more deaths and more hospitalizations, but it did not cause the public health and financial destruction of COVID-19. Any job is a vital job to the person who has lost it. Does anybody really know the death number, death rate, number of infections or recoveries? Does anybody know if mitigation has caused harm, little benefit or negatively affected the potential for herd immunity?
It has become the mission of many in the media and the left to chastise any data, information or opinion contrary that does not support draconian and excessive measures that signal anything other than hysteria, fear, economic suicide and the growth of central authority over our lives.
Let us be careful and mindful of whether we could have avoided what we have done to ourselves. Yes, I do believe we could have done better with a more comprehensive and facile approach from the beginning.
Debate is healthy and often leads to the best ideas. Predicting a pandemic is not a reason to take a victory lap. It is like predicting the stock market will go down. The next infecting agent is unknown. It could be a virus, bacteria or other something.
A general statement of medical readiness for a crisis scenario is appropriate, but having an infinite supply of ventilators does not.
Looking to the current president as the reason for unpreparedness is a bit puzzling. There were many presidents, governmental agencies, congresses and bureaucrats in this loop prior to 2018 during crises involving AIDS, H1N1 or the devastating swine flu. There is only opinion related to the present pandemic and it has no record of accuracy. If definitive information exists to support the models on which the policies resulted, I would be anxious to see them. It is accurate data alone that can settle the debate.
Sweden is an interesting example of an alternative approach. Of interest, with only common sense measures in a country with roughly the population of Michigan, that country has had fewer mortalities than our state.
I am unaware of any viral illness of this magnitude causing the worldwide economic devastation of COVID-19. Again, let me remind you that the negative consequences of the recent flu season have been worse than that of COVID-19. What we have done to ourselves has destroyed dreams, livelihoods and mental health—problems arising from debt, foreclosure and isolation, not COVID-19.
I will concede that it has not been all of the news media defending an ideological authoritarian mode of governing based on fear and exclusive of the valuable role that many in media could have played in disseminating accurate information. However, that is an issue for another debate, altogether.
There may never be a vaccine for COVID-19 as there has never been a satisfactory vaccine for the flu. We have been dealing with AIDS for 40 plus years, still with no vaccine.
There is no data to show that mitigation and economic shutdown has decreased deaths, decreased disease incidence. There is even evidence that COVID-19 has the same eight-week cycle of other viral illnesses.
I would think it responsible reporting to ask questions about any policy approach that has no basis in experience or fact but relies only on opinion. Hayek stated that the fatal conceit results from the presumption that the opinions of those so-called experts are correct.
The American people are smart. Reasoned guidance and accurate information seem reasonable. Statements suggesting that if one gets this illness, death is a likelihood as echoed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have no value in helping an informed public through a difficult time such as this.