Doctors at Stanford University are at the forefront of a global movement of health experts who criticize the blockade on COVID-19 control and say schools and businesses need to reopen, but with a focus on protecting the elderly and infirm. most vulnerable to the virus.
Named the Great Barrington Declaration after the western city of Massachusetts, where it was hatched this month in the think tank for economic policy, their statement of purpose is the work of three main compilers, including Stanford Medical Professor Dr. Jay Batacharya.
“As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have serious concerns about the detrimental effects on the physical and mental health of the prevailing policies of COVID-1
Although the arguments are not new, with more than 18,000 medical, scientific and health professionals among more than 191,000 signatories online worldwide, this is the largest public pause among health experts by the overwhelming support of their peers for blocking since the beginning of the the pandemic earlier this year. year.
But the declaration has sparked fire from other doctors and public health officials, who say removing the blockages will only invite a new wave of infections and fatalities to COVID-19 from the deadly virus. More than 7.6 million people in the United States became infected with the virus, and 213,000 people died.
“Whose grandparents and family members are you willing to sacrifice for this stupid idea?” Asked Santa Clara County Executive Director Jeff Smith, whose administration in March forced the Gulf region to impose the first U.S. blockade on the pandemic and has since been criticized for the slow pace of its opening.
The signatories of the declaration are clearly disappointed by the prevailing orthodoxy of public health that indefinite and costly exclusions are needed to keep the virus under control.
“A number of scientists and non-scientists have tried to raise questions about both the effectiveness and potential harm of inferences since March,” said Laura Laceroni, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford who specializes in biomedical data science. signed the declaration. “But an honest and investigative scientific discussion was difficult to achieve this year.”
Why? Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, a medical practitioner, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford and a former deputy health official in San Francisco, who also signed the declaration, blames the policy.
President Donald Trump, who saw his administration’s economic gains and prospects for re-election amplified by blockages, insisted on reopening and questioning the evolving science around the virus he had recently contracted and recovered from.
“If you take a critical perspective, people associate you with Trump,” Bhatia said. “It’s hard even for me to talk to colleagues about it.”
Bhattacharya, who drafted the declaration with doctors Martin Kulldorff, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, and Sunetra Gupta, an epidemiologist at Oxford University, have been at the center of the lock-in dispute since the beginning.
In March, he co-authored a column in the Wall Street Journal, suggesting that the new coronavirus may not be as deadly as many believe. The following month, he co-authored a study at Stanford, which showed that the virus was much more prevalent than previously thought, resulting in much lower mortality.
This pre-review study – which was later revised – drew wicked criticism and even prompted Stanford to review the team’s work, which Batacharya said he was convinced would be justified.
Bhattacharya, who was not available for comment, and co-signatories claim that the blocks were not properly weighed against the subsequent damage. Not only have they lost livelihoods and learning for workers and students, but the blockade has caused damage to their mental and physical health from prolonged isolation, lack of exercise and avoidance of routine vaccinations, medical examinations and other procedures, they say.
Flight Altmeier, a former Cisco Systems vice president and philanthropist who criticized the slow opening of Santa Clara County in a full-page newspaper ad in May, found it refreshing.
“Science is learning from new data and vigorous debate,” Altmeier said. “Instead, for the first time, we have people who claim to ‘follow science and data’, who are in fact simply imposing their opinion on us through Fiat, with catastrophic consequences for children’s education and people’s livelihoods.”
But Smith, who has a medical degree, and other health experts say the approach outlined in the declaration has not worked as well in countries that have adopted it, such as Brazil and Sweden.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Brazil has the fifth highest mortality rate from COVID-19 per capita in the world, although it is lower than that in Peru, which has the second highest rate, although it had one of the highest the longest and strictest conclusions in the world. The mortality rate in Sweden is much higher than in neighboring Norway, Finland, Denmark and Germany, although lower than in the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy.
“There are many communities around the world that have tried to adopt the ‘let it spread and we will do minimal separation and social distancing’ approach and have seen poor results,” Smith said. He argues that restrictions are needed to protect the vulnerable, as the virus can be spread by people who do not know they are contagious.
Experts such as Dr. George Rutherford of the University of San Francisco say the country is not close to achieving “immunity to the herd,” and loosening the restrictions will only mean that many more will have to become infected and die in order to reach this point.
“It depends on how many deaths we tolerate before we reach a level of herd immunity where we can stop the transmission,” Rutherford said. “I must take the side of preventing mortality.”