Scott W. Atlas, M.D.is the Robert Wesson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University and a Member of Hoover Institution’s Working Group on Health Care Policy.
Dr. Atlas investigates the impact of government and the private sector on access, quality, pricing, and innovation in health care and is a frequent policy advisor to government and industry leaders in these areas. During the 2008, 2012, and 2016 presidential campaigns, he was a Senior Advisor for Health Care to a number of candidates for President of the United States. He has also advised several members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives and testified to Congress on health care reform. His most recent book is entitled Restoring Quality Health Care: A Six‐Point Plan for Comprehensive Reform at Lower Cost (Hoover Press, 2016). Some of Dr. Atlas’s previous health policy books include In Excellent Health: Setting the Record Straight on America’s Health Care System (Hoover Press, 2011), Reforming America’s Health Care System (Hoover Press, 2010), and Power to the Patient: Selected Health Care Issues and Policy Solutions (Hoover Press, 2005). Dr. Atlas had a Fulbright award to collaborate with academic leaders in China on structuring health care solutions for China, and also participated with leaders from government and academia on the World Bank’s Commission on Growth and Development. He has also advised leaders on health care and medical technology in several countries outside the US, including Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Europe. Dr. Atlas has published and been interviewed in a variety of media, including the Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, CNN, USA Today, Fox News, London’s Financial Times, BBC Radio, The PBS News Hour, Bloomberg Radio, Brazil’s Correio Braziliense and Isto E, Italy’s Corriere della Sera, Argentina’s Diario La Nacion, and India’s The Hindu.
Dr. Atlas is also the editor of the leading textbook in the field, the best‐selling Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain and Spine, now in its 5th edition and officially translated from English into Mandarin, Spanish, and Portuguese. He has been editor, associate editor, and a member of the boards of numerous scientific journals and national and international scientific societies over the past three decades. His medical research centered on advanced applications of new MRI technologies in neurologic diseases. While Professor of Radiology and Chief of Neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center from 1998 until 2012 and during his previous faculty positions, Dr. Atlas trained over 100 neuroradiology fellows, many of whom are now leaders in the field throughout the world.
He lectures on a variety of topics, most notably the role of government and the private sector in health care quality and access, global trends in health care innovation, and the key economic issues related to the future of technology‐based medical advances. In the private sector, Dr. Atlas is a frequent advisor to start‐up entrepreneurs and companies in the life sciences and medical technology.
Dr. Atlas has received numerous awards and honors in recognition of his leadership in the field. He is recognized internationally as a leader in both education and clinical research and had been on the Nominating Committee for the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for several years. He has been named by his peers in The Best Doctors in America every year since its initial publication, as well as in regional listings, such as The Best Doctors in New York, Silicon Valley’s Best Doctors, and other similar publications. He was honored to receive the 2011 Alumni Achievement Award, the highest career achievement honor for a distinguished alumnus from the University of Illinois in Urbana‐Champaign, his alma mater.
Dr. Atlas received a BS degree in biology from the University of Illinois in Urbana‐Champaign and an MD degree from the University of Chicago School of Medicine.
- Scott AtlasRobert Wesson Senior Fellow at Stanford University
Welcome to Policy McCombs. A data focused conversation on tradeoffs.
I’m Carlos Kavala from the Saban Center for Policy at the University of Texas at Austin.
A pleasure to have Dr. Scott Atlus from the Hoover Institution, where he’s a senior fellow
and also a former professor and chief neuro radiologist at the Stanford Medical School
Center Medical School. Scott, thanks for joining us here. Thanks for having me. So we’re here
in June 2nd, 2020, and I want to have a conversation about our
policies and the decisions made leading up to this day associated with the pandemic
of October 19. So let’s go back to March or even before that went. When were you
started to get nervous or concern about what was coming our way and what
data and information where you’re looking at? Then let’s say, you know, late February, March, you’re a
well, you know, I’m like a every human being I have. My first reaction was I was afraid,
you know, because that’s just the normal inclination of something is as bad as what was
said originally about the fatality rate. And, you know, sort
of the assumption that this was we were what’s called medically naive to this
infection, meaning it was brand new and a, nobody would have any immunity, et cetera,
as the first reports were sort of really sensationalizing
things so early. I would say in in February,
things started to come out about who was really being impacted.
And yet there was this public discourse. And then eventually in March,
I started writing about this. I think I may have written in February. I don’t remember that. But the
reality was that the data coming out was suddenly
in the public sphere discussion where people I
don’t know why. Maybe because we live in an era of hyperbole and we live where if you do a Google
search, you’re an expert and our society confers expertise to people who have
none, but they happen to be successful in some other walk of life or their ranch or whatever the
the rationale for it is. And so there was a public discussion, incredibly naive
to what medical science says and really
took off to be a very fearful discussion. And a lot of it was because
of these hypothetical projections that were from, you know, early on statistical
models. But by virtue of being very early are very
problematic by definition because there’s very little actual data entering and it’s just about
a hypothetical. And somehow this became the discussion. The narrative
was really based on worst case scenario hypothetical. People were afraid it was a bad mix.
And so so we’re talking early March and in mid-March, I think that’s when you see the projections
coming out of the empirical edge of being like a very influential model that that people cite a lot these days
by projecting to have 2.2 million. That’s in the U.S. And so my five hundred thousand, that’s in the U.K.
And even at that point in time, you would say that the information that we had about China and
Italy was already pointing to the risk of the virus being primarily on
on was not necessarily in agreement with what the projections were making. And and perhaps
more in line with what you’ve been saying about, well, there’s a group at risk here that has a higher chance of infection. Is that correct?
Well, there were two parts to it. Two parts to the sort of complete lack
of rational or even what I would just call basic common sense about how things were being reported.
The first one was that the numbers were calculated from people who, by
definition, were sick or not. And so when you talk about a fraction
of percent, an infection fatality rate, where the denominator of the fraction
is is just grossly underestimated. You have this
just strange lack of understanding of that, even though there were people who did
understand this, that you’re basically saying if if X number of people die divided by the total people
who are infected, but your definition of who’s infected are only the people that saw in a hospital.
I mean, that’s just really sort of it’s shocking that people just
went down that pathway in very smart people did some incredibly sloppy thinking.
And the second part was that we knew from I like this, I’d said, you know, I’ve done dozens
of interviews about this stuff. And, you know, anyone in medical school understands
who’s at risk when you have a viral respiratory infection, any viral respiratory infection.
And you said to a medical student who’s at risk to die if anyone’s going to die.
The answer would be the exact. Group who’s at risk to die here in this? This is not new knowledge
yet somehow that was forgotten. And so when we see, for instance, just as
a background, when you see influenza go into a nursing home. Regular seasonal influenza. It’s
massively destructive. People die like crazy because older people with these
significant underlying diseases. I’m talking about kidney failure, heart failure,
you know, a chronic lung disease. And particularly the number one thing that makes you susceptible to infection
is diabetes. This is widely known. This is not a surprise yet. The public thinks even
you know, even people who I know who are super smart people thought, wow, this is really unusual. No,
it’s not. And yet that fact should have immediately prompted
attention to protecting those people, because it turns out those are the only people that die.
Essentially the only people. So there was a combination of a grossly exaggerated
fatality rate and a bizarre
idea that somehow shut down everybody. And this is sort of didn’t pass
a commonsense test, let alone people who had a medical perspective. And I think
this was a big issue was that, like I say, that the narrative, the sensationalizing and the
public discussion by very smart people didn’t have a medical
perspective on things. And I could talk about that if you’d like. Because I’m interested. That’s
one of the. So so I’m very interested in knowing why there was very little dissent
to the to the policies that were put in place. I think that you mentioned that there’s a commonsense aspect from medicine.
But from where I sit, I’m from the very beginning I was. OK. What are the tradeoffs we’re facing here?
Shutting down in the economy, something that’s unprecedented. We cannot even begin to start thinking about the consequences,
economic consequences alone associated with that. And nobody seems to be thinking about this before taking
the decision. All right. That seems to be the the smart
opinion out there. No, I was I was viewed as somebody very unorthodox
by thinking that then I know we should be a little bit more careful. So do you have any sense why
that was the case? Yeah. Well, yes. So I said from the beginning, really? And I’m not the only one.
I’m not I’m not claiming that that there was a massive trade off or there was a policy, basically
a pass away gone down. What I would call stopping close with 19 at all
costs. And this is this was a gross, really gross
failure of government policy here, as you as you are pointing out, because what
what happened and I’ve quantified this with some of my economics colleagues and other institutions recently,
was that the sort of a policy was
was a I feel that was based on fear. And it was also placed sort of delegated
into the hands of people who were fearful to begin with. And even the scientists
who were involved there, not that they had a perspective that the only thing that counted
was stopping this infection. And that’s just wrong. I mean, that will go down
as an an error of epic proportions when history looks back at this,
because as we’ve we’ve said and I know I’ve talked about this many, many times I can go through, but there’s
so many. The shutdown of the medical care by shutting down overtly
in terms of prioritizing over 19, but also by instilling fear in the people, has not
only killed more people, directly killed more people than covered 19 already,
but it will kill even more and is setting up a massive public health crisis.
Why it was done was because people I just have to save people.
You know, we have these political policymakers who were were swayed. They’re medically naive
people. I have to say, I’m disappointed in the economic side of the of this. I mean,
my I worked with a lot of economists. The world of economics is all about
trade offs and incentives and all kinds of things. That’s what I’ve learned since I’ve been at Hoover
for the past decade and a half. Yet the economists
were relatively silent as a group on this. And, you know, it turns
out it’s actually not that complicated to figure out because there’s a lot of data, as you know, about what simply
even unemployment destroys, let alone the world. And in the
U.S. alone, let alone the world poverty crisis that’s going to happen from this. And
it’s it’s it was almost all almost all unnecessary.
Yeah, I I wondered myself about the economists and people that I see around me.
And I think that early on there was this notion that if you count the value of a life
at $10 billion. And there’s 2.2 million people going to die. Well, that’s a large number.
Therefore, do whatever day. And but that was not thought carefully.
Number one, the timing and the number is not realistic for all lives, unfortunately.
And number two, the 2.2 million lives that were were by now, I think
we know that that was out of out of out of whack with the with the with the actual realities
of the virus. Right. Yeah. I mean, the models were were really grossly wrong. In fact, there
was a lot of obvious errors in the models themselves, although
I hate to criticize people that were projecting on the basis of nothing. But but
it turns out that, you know, there is an impact. You know, all of a sudden we had computer scientists
in charge of policy. I mean, this is sort of that alone is sort of should raise a red flag.
But what’s going on here? But, you know, they were dealing with there was a there was, like
I say, a climate of fear. And as we all know, once fear enters the equation,
irrational actions occur. We made a lot of decisions based on worst case scenarios, which
even if science is we’re putting forward the uncertainty associated with those projections. I think people latched on the
Worst-Case scenario and then decisions are made based on that, which doesn’t how we make decisions in any aspect of our lives. Right.
Exactly. Especially policymaking make is all about average outcomes, not worst case scenario outcomes.
All right. So now we’re here June and we learn a lot about the virus since. And still we
have lots of places in lockdown and an incredible restrictions in people’s lives. So
what information have you learned since that that has changed you or your or
has has to provide you more and more certainty about the statements
you’re making now? Yeah, so. So here, here’s what we know. You know,
we know a number one, that the infection fatality rate is far lower
one tenths or even lower than the original infection fatality rates. And how
do we know that? We know that from data all over the world. And I’m talking about average infection,
fatality rate. So you’re talking about looking at data from then in detail, not just the bottom
line stuff from France, the Netherlands, Spain,
everywhere, Iceland, Taiwan, and now the CDC itself.
Yet inexplicably, by the way, the CDC posting of this has not been reported,
which is very frightening. That’s as one part. Knows that a number that’s like point
two. Five percent, right? 26 percent. Yes. And actually, even that
is is actually too high because they didn’t they made the low end assumption about how
many people are asymptomatic and infected. And that’s contrary to what really
we know. The second part of the the danger that we know is that
it really is very low danger to anybody who’s under 60.
OK. And I’m going to I’ll go forward and say that the data shows when you look inside the papers,
not just at the abstract of the paper. That’s what I mean by very sloppy. There’s an absence of critical
thinking going on by very smart people here. When you look at the data from all over the world,
including the US, you see that if you’re under 60, under 60 years old,
your ear infection fatality rate is less than or equal to seasonal influenza.
OK. Now, in the beginning, you couldn’t even uttered those words because it was
you were it sort of like saying the earth is third there? Yeah. The reality is the science deniers
are denying that fact. I mean, I hate to say it that way, but it’s it’s it’s it’s just factual
that that’s the infection fatality rate for under 60. And that means nothing about minimizing
the tragedy or the seriousness of the infection. It’s very, very dangerous for people
who are in a certain class. What class? People over 80. OK. And people with serious
underlying diseases, particularly diabetes. It’s very risky. It’s it’s
it’s it’s high fatality rate. So under 60 is less
or equal to seasonal flu. And more so even more explicit data now. Very
convincing. Overwhelming data that there is literally zero risk,
almost zero, almost zero for a fatality in people under 9 18,
meaning children and almost zero risk of a serious illness. For people in
the childhood ages. So there is really almost no there there’s no rational
reason to do things like closed schools or space out children or have children
wear masks. This is really completely antithetical to the science.
It has a lot of implication. This this denial of evidence about children,
because again, and we could talk about this, but there’s a lot of harms, not just for
economic lockdown, but to to think that it’s OK to have children shut
out of schools is an incredible lack of thought about what’s going on here,
because you have harms, not just from distance learning. This is a fantasy
that distance learning, it’s OK. We can do that until we open up schools. I mean, who who
are they talking about? I mean, there’s a 30 percent drop in reading rate and reading comprehension
already in Boston. A huge percentage of children have never even logged on.
OK. This is going on all over the country. Every educator I read studies and that’s there. It’s a city that
you. And you know that what I call the paraphernalia of the affluent, meaning I
pads and software and all kinds of rapid broadband Wi-Fi. I mean, this
stuff is not universally available to people. This is really destroying and
setting up a further unequal, unequal outcome in education from different
socioeconomic groups. It’s really a disaster. I just wanna make one more point about what we know
about the data in children. We also know that this idea
that children must be contained because they can transmit the disease.
I mean, there’s two floors to that. Number one, you don’t lock down the people who are healthy.
Just because somehow an indirect damage can occur, you protect the people
who we know should be protected. That’s sort of common sense has nothing to do with it. You don’t have to be
a medical scientist. Understand that. I would think about the second point is that there’s an overwhelming
amount of evidence that, again, is just not really acknowledged by these people who want to keep schools
shut. Children don’t even transmit the disease hardly ever, if ever. I can’t say they
never do. That would be not not really true or not certainly not proven.
Certainly already proven that children are very low likelihood
of transmitting the disease to adults, even in their own parents, even to their own
parents. And hot. You know, the original papers that the push for schools closure
on the basis of children being contagious have been completely destroyed in the
literature. And so, again, there is this fear. But the reality is
that closing schools isn’t is purely harmful to the people whose schools
are supposed to serve in. It’s harmful to the children. It’s the lack of socializing, the
lack of physical activity. I think every one of us understands that what we learn in school
expands far beyond just what you can learn from a book. Otherwise, you really wouldn’t go to school,
honestly. And secondly, that this idea that the teachers need to be
protected in K-through-12 schools invited states, half teachers,
half the teachers are forty one years old or younger. Eighty two percent are
under fifty five. That’s not the risk. If there are high risk teachers,
we know how to do social distancing for them. They can surround themselves with a six foot space.
They can use a Plexiglas shield if they’re fearful. They can wear all kinds of stuff
to protect themselves or even teach from home if they want to. That has nothing to do
with shutting down schools. It is just completely irrational and very harmful.
And this idea as a another point that we know and I’m going to say this because very
few people even talk about it, this idea of masks being necessary,
particularly for children, is completely irrational. First of all, the W.H.O.
itself, this is another thing that’s not even been in the news because I just don’t know why nothing positive
is really explained. The W.H.O. itself, a cautious
international organization. Has on their Web site the following,
quote, Healthy people only should wear a mask when taking
care of comfort. 19 patients from last week or so. Right. Yeah.
That’s not talking about asymptomatic people. That’s not talking about potential people.
This is really talking about the only reason for an otherwise healthy person to wear a mask
in any situation is if they’re literally thinking someone with comfort 19
who’s sick and coughing around, coughing in their face could contaminate them. That
means in a hospital, or if you have somebody in your home who is coughing and sick,
it’s reasonable to wear a mask, but otherwise protect now in schools to have children
wear a mask. Given all the data I just outlined on children having zero risk
and not even being contagious, really, you should protect people who want to be protected.
But children. It just doesn’t make sense. And this idea of wearing masks in public.
I’m sorry to keep going down, but that investment in these days is the thing that most most
is in my mind. Is that what we about about schools in the fall? Yeah, because I know when we lock
down children, as everyone knows, you’re locking down parents. OK. It’s
not true that everybody’s walking around with a nanny in their house or it’s only an inconvenience
that their kids are underfoot. I mean, this is it’s not this is really a complete lack of understanding
of real world. You can’t go back to a job if you have a child, if you
have children at home. But the harms to the children themselves really are the biggest
issue, including the summer programs, by the way. There is no reason to stop summer
programs. And what we see now is this bizarre set of regulations,
not just in K-through-12 schools, but in, unfortunately, our own universities. But I’ll give you an example.
L.A. County has something like a 54 page booklet on opening schools. It was just
released and they’re talking about as many communities are half days distance
learning, six foot spacing, children wearing masks one way, walking in hallways,
giving a little kid a ball at recess with their name on it. And no one else can touch
that. This is really this is I don’t know I don’t even know how to explain how irrational
what we’re seeing is in. And unfortunately, the policy makers are
just being basically to me, honestly. And it’s not political. They’re just exposed as being grossly incompetent
and unable to do the job. But it’s to the point of distraction, really. It really is.
And I think it illustrates a lot the lack of tradeoff thinking or the fact that the fact that
this this thing’s a 54 book was made. And I don’t think there’s any consideration to the
outcomes in terms of learning outcomes, in terms of some social behavior, the outcomes. Also
psychological outcomes. I mean, children to be terrified to go to school if they think you are a vector
for this and something really that they’re very
easy to to impress them. Right. So so creating that burnt familia, familiar fear around them is not going to do
something very good for the long term. And then there’s other issues also that are even more direct related
to children’s health. Number one, we know the data shows more than half of children are not
getting their vaccinations because people are afraid to bring them near a medical facility. This is on the
CDC pages. This is fact, which is a future health
really catastrophe. But but secondly, you know, people go to school in a lot of people,
a lot of children first are detected to have, say, a hearing problem or a vision problem
at school by the school. Is this a school environment that the school
nurses in these kinds of sort of healthy health maintenance or health detection
activities are often done in school, not to mention sort of, you know, lower socio
economic groups get a lot of their adequate basic nutritional needs met
from food at school. I mean, there’s really a massive problem, a disconnect
between the governing powers that be in the end, the role
of schools. The role of schools is for the children. The children are safe in schools.
In fact, in many ways, they’re safer in schools. There’s a better environment where destroying
and work like you’re sort of implying there. I feel we’re creating
sort of a generation of neurotic children by making them afraid and wearing masks.
And no one can anticipate or define really the ultimate end point of that
in terms of the long term outcome. We’re already seeing, by the way, indicators
that that suicides are higher now in younger people from the locked
up and suicide calls to hotlines. There’s articles all over about
this are increasing. I mean, the massive destruction of the power. It
is far higher than Koven 19 directly, so let’s finish
with school. That’s one more thing in a top US school. You mentioned universities and me
versus a lot of them. Are men planning for the fall. And yes, just like the L.A. County,
there’s a lot of different reverses and very elaborate plans on how to deal with things, how to manage students, rotating
them in classes occupancy, reducing occupancy tremendously
in their in their classrooms. How do you think about that and what are the thing? So
what would you consider that that group of people being so low risk as well, that this is not the way we should be going forward?
Absolutely. I mean, 80 percent of university students are under 24.
And, you know, the overwhelming majority of people in
this age group. I mean, you could look at data from under 20 under 30 age bracket.
It’s extraordinarily low. If we were to take the logic that’s being used
to make these modifications, then I have no idea why they don’t do that every November
through April during flu season in the United States alone. Fifty thousand plus
people die every year from flu. And it’s the same high risk group, basically.
Actually, it’s more it’s worse for you, for young children. The flu is far more dangerous for young children.
In fact, just as a comment. The bottom line of a study in JAMA Pediatrics
about a week or two ago of forty six hospitals in North America. Pediatric hospitals.
Their bottom line conclusion was, quote, The likelihood of a critical illness
from seasonal influenza is far greater than from COVA, 19 and children.
So but the point about the university population is the youtz. It’s absolutely the same. There is
zero science, zero reason to have any kind of modification whatsoever
in terms of mass spacing, changing classes to distance zero.
We know who to protect and the protecting is not necessary for young people.
In fact, it’s actually not only is it no problem to get the
infection for 99 percent of people under 60.
More than ninety nine percent. But the reality is that for people in it
that are low risk groups, which college population is essentially it’s
harmful to establishing population immunity because population immunity depends
on immunity individually. That breaks the connectivity
chain toward the vulnerable. This is what the purpose of vaccines. Vaccines are are
are injections that generate antibodies and that that’s sort of
why. Population theory about using vaccines widely is only
to induce the so-called herd immunity. It turns out and this is you know, there’s so much to say
it could get off track, but there’s a lot of immunity in this disease that is not detected by the specific antibodies.
And that’s sort of a medical science issue that is interesting. We can talk about some other time, but
the reality is that the same issue applies to universities as it does to
K-through-12 in both sides. Number one, the reason you go to college
is not just to learn to sit there and learn online. I mean, nobody would pay
the money to go to Stanford University if that’s what Stanford University was all about.
Whether or not it’s worth it, it’s a separate issue. But even in this sort of environment
here, that is like to me. I just I think that we have an illustration, again,
of people who really don’t understand. They’re not using common sense and logic and looking at the science.
We have a dramatic example here of what what is the purpose
of the universe. To me, if I could pick one thing, it’s to teach people how to use critical thinking.
It’s not to memorize facts. It’s not to memorize history. It’s not if
I had to pick one thing. And we are showing a gross absence of critical thinking by the leadership
in universities. You know that if you want to protect the high risk professors,
then we can protect them. In fact, they can if they’re so afraid of walking into an environment
or if it’s medically reasonable to have that fear either one. They’re welcome to teach from
a distance as far as I’m concerned, or setup a sixth sense to them. Right. Anything
they want to do is fine, but to stop the interaction of young, healthy people,
just like it is completely irrational and counter to the evidence and the science,
just like it is to limit restaurants and require 6 foot spacing to limit
businesses are required. Now I think it’s fine to have. You could put a warning up there
on the on the door. But you know, to claim that restaurants have to have 6 foot spacing.
Nobody’s forcing anyone to walk into a restaurant. I’m not. Kading, that you must go into a
restaurant. You must go into a bar. Now, if you’re afraid, if you’re high risk, OK. You
don’t have to go in. But. But that’s sort of the opposite from what’s being done, which is to make
all these so completely irrational restrictions on healthy people
instead of simply protecting the risk, which, by the way, not only the destruction of the policy, but
the gross, really egregious. You know, I’m not a lawyer, but I would use the word criminal
negligence or even worse, of killing all the thousands of people in the nursing homes
who amount to 40 percent or more of the deaths even
after the lockdowns. I’ll give you an example, New York, they lock down New York state on March
the nursing home residents. OK. That that kind of order was called for by.
By many of us months before that was introduced. And when you look at
states, it’s not just New York, it’s the West Coast, the Midwest, the East Coast. I’m talking about 50,
up all the healthy people. And by the way, the US does not have a monopoly
on this complete failure. Even countries that were sane, like Switzerland,
Sweden, I mean, Switzerland. Fifty three percent of the deaths were in nursing homes in Stockholm
itself. 70 percent of the deaths were in nursing homes. I mean, this, like I
say, is like a common sense medical school, one or one,
you know. And instead of doing that, what was necessary and was called for by many
people, they just decided to lock down everybody and just forgot about that. It’s
really inexplicable. So so part of what I think there is
the suggestions of continuing the social distancing and restrictions and in
schools, the university, et cetera. Is this notion that people that might not be at risk individually
by them congregating generates an externality, a negative actuality that is going to increase the chance of somebody,
a nursing home being infected at the end of the day? What I find interesting about the lack of
discussion about the positive action out that you just mentioned on the herd immunity
to young people is if you’re if you’re able just to sever the connection between the young and the
old, that is what’s needed, because then you create a Orza rationality for society. We essentially
get vaccination naturally if the young and healthy are able to get it. But that, again,
you mentioned economies being silence. And there’s that’s a very clear economic point that has not been
made and has not been taken into account in the epidemiological models. And then the other the other
sort of is distortion of what the whole policy goal ever was to begin with.
There is no goal. There never was. And the numbers should be of stopping all cases
of covered 19. It doesn’t matter if you get the disease, if you’re not going to have
a serious complication. This is sort of I don’t even know why that has to be explained. But somehow there’s
this focus on, oh, my God, we must have cases stop. No, that’s not true.
We only have to prevent the cases going to the people who are going to die or have a serious
illness from it. And you know that that is actually sort of lost in the other
part of this equation about herd immunity, which is that the actual contagiousness of the disease
and the numbers that were calculated are based on a very flawed. And now
Evidences is coming out on this concept of immunity. The immunity to
this disease is more than just the specific antibodies to
this virus. And that’s the most likely explanation, not anything else.
It’s the most likely explanation of why Asian populations had less problem
with this. They have a tremendous amount of experience with other corona viruses
and other Saras viruses. There is a cross immunity here. This
is coming out now and it’s being exposed. But again, we don’t get any discussion
of this sort of science. It’s esoteric knowledge. But this
calculation that keeps being repeated even as recently as two days ago by again, very smart, qualified
people about the need for herd immunity to require 60 or 70 or 80 percent
infection rates. It’s just not true. It really is just not true. It’s false. It’s
it’s contrary to the science. For instance, when we look at the Princess
cruise ship from Japan, where it was a closed population with no social distancing
done in mainly old people, even butstill closed population. Twenty
five percent. Twenty four percent of people were infected. I mean, how would you account for that if it was so contagious
and there was no distancing done unless there was a natural immunity that was already present, even
though it’s not detected in the base of the antibodies themselves. There’s all kinds of data coming.
In this budget, I just thought of it as another example of refusal by scientists
somehow who are either wedded to some previous theory or who are fearful themselves.
So go back to something you wrote recently. On the on the sort of health tradeoffs. And
let’s talk a little bit about that. I think your number. You estimated that we already
lost per month something like seven hundred thousand years of life by not
by not treating people and by the indirect effects of locking locking things down, which would
add up to one point five million years if given the amount of time that we have
been in lockdown, far surpassing what we’re going to be. We’ve seen it already in terms of Colvert
or we will see for the end of the year. Tell us a little bit more about about that calculation. What what, what,
what, what it what goes into it? Sure. So there were two aspects as you point, and we were very conservative
in these numbers because we only considered a certain list of things. We wanted to be
conservative, but we wanted to also consider what we knew we could get data. So on the health
care side, the hospitals shut down by directive for, quote, nonessential
conditions as well as instilled a massive amount of fear. I sort of alluded to
this, but, you know, we the numbers are six hundred fifty thousand Americans have
cancer in the you and I have chemo regimens. Half of them stopped
going in. Forty percent of people with an acute stroke would normally come in within
hours. They didn’t call the ambulance. Eighty five percent
of living organ donor transplants procedures were not done compared
to the previous year, over that single month, actually, of lockdown.
And it goes on and on. Two thirds of cancer screenings were not being done. Sometimes three fourths,
you know, half of immunization, plus more than half of immunizations were not going. So these things have
calculate a bill from the actuarial tables,
from the published data, from the CDC, from life expectancy. And we calculated
the loss of life years, given the age, given the, you know, the
missed cases. We we, for instance, we were very conservative in just calculating only the things
that were cited in that paper. And in addition, we said, well, let’s just say only 10 percent
of people who skipped an immunization didn’t get it. It’s likely it’s going to be larger than
that. Common sense tells me that we took the other side of the summation,
which was due to the economic lockdown. And instead of going through every possible
manifestation, which there is economic data, as you know better than I do about the calculation
that translation of loss of GDP or whatever, two lives lost
and who who is lost, loss of jobs. We only took the unemployment number
and of course, we stopped it, I think thirty six million at the time. We know that’s going to be much larger.
You’re ready. Forty. Yeah, it’s over 40. By the time the paper came out, it was only a few days
after we submitted it was thirty nine point six or something. So. But anyway, we just did
that. And what we came up with was that each month of lockdown. Was
almost equal in life years lost in the United States to the
total of the Koven 19 pandemic life years lost at the time when
there were roughly one hundred thousand just under one hundred thousand deaths. And so we
calculated that. And of course, we use the actuarial tables in. It does. You know,
it’s not minimizing value of a life when you calculate life years
lost. It’s the only way to rationally do it. And we find that in the two months, as you
mentioned, it was almost doubled. So you’ve changed a 1 X life years
lost from Cauvin 19 and you’ve added 2 X more. So you’ve tripled the damage and that’s
just after 2 months. We know the lockdown is continuing, even though a lot
of sort of what I consider misleading statements are made, oh, we’re open or we’re opening.
I mean, we’re opening in such a ramp a minimal way compared to what’s going on here
economically particularly. But also it’s very slow to
regain the confidence of the public in getting health care. It’s starting. It’s clearly starting. But, you know, when
you look, there are other numbers we didn’t even use. Two thirds of physical therapy was not being done.
You know, 50 percent of urgent care visits were not getting done. I mean, this is serious
stuff. It was hard to quantify. Exactly. So we were conservative and did
what we could. The number is a gross underestimate of the life years lost from the lockdown.
I can guarantee you that our day quality adjusted or not. Now,
we just did life years. You know, there’s so the more I what I didn’t want to do is fall into
the trap of modeler. We didn’t do anything that complicated. We did some
sort of very simple but let you know, sort of legitimate stuff
that wasn’t really deniable, although I’m sure people were going to argue and nit pick. But
I think I said to someone once interviewing me about this, I think the nit picking really
is that we were too low in our in our estimates. So so, you know, we
mentioned that we are we’re now in experimentation phase where some places are in the US
in particular to have some states open, some states close. And some states saying that
are going to be close for a lot longer than that. Then like me here in Texas, here in California,
where things are still severely closed. Right. And all we’re seeing, pretty much every
country in Europe opening up to some extent, some of them allowing kids to go to school and so
on. As you look at the evidence coming out of that process now, the process of unwinding
the lockdowns, does anything worry you? Do you see anything that that
that that is concerning or because every single epidemiological
model predicts under their assumptions that we’re going to be moving towards a second
wave? Right. Well, it’s not true that every single one. But the ones
that are and publicly discussed, certainly. So there’s two aspects to the question
to answering it. Number one. No, I don’t see the projections about the sort
of explosion due to the opening. It’s just not happening. It’s not happening in the United States.
It’s not happening in Europe. In fact, an interesting comment was
made in a couple of countries in Europe. One is in Switzerland where they’ve actually accelerated
the opening because. Apsley, nothing is happening. But the second part is in
Norway, the prime minister of Norway was quoted yesterday or the date. I think the day before. I mean,
the days are sort of one day to me now because it’s all covered 19, 24/7.
But as she said, something like, you know, I admit
the decisions were made out of fear. I shouldn’t have closed schools, you
know, and all kinds of disclaimers and actually honesty about how how how really
poor decisions were made. Now, she actually made a statement that was stronger in the
sense that she said even if there is a second wave, we’re not going to close schools. Yeah.
And actually so there’s two things to this. There’s of this idea of a second wave. Let me really
address that is a hypothetical. OK. I mean, no one zero
people know there’s going to be a second wave. I don’t care what they say. This is ludicrous to
say. There is definitely a second wave. There might be a second wave. I’m not saying there definitely won’t be.
But we can. We can say that other stars didn’t necessarily have a second
wait. They disappeared. In fact, the the
the drug by GUILIA Rum, Dessa fear that was brought out very quickly
here and tested in this virus. The only reason it was tested so quickly
was because the original studies that were done already had determined safety in primate
models and part in sort of efficacy too. Why was that never
approved for previous Saras virus? When it was actually the drug was invented
because there were no more patients to test it on. And now we see in the news, as I think
people have seen, the vaccine makers right now are frantic because
they’re, quote, running out of patience. They may need a certain N to be able to test
and prove efficacy. And if those no patients around, there’s no patients to test
and prove the vaccine. And that’s a real problem. And it’s it’s actually true that as viruses
mutates genetically, this, again, is another example of sort of what’s been propagated
in the public. Good discussion. Somehow that’s so dangerous. Oh, my God. We’re not able to find the
vaccine. But the reality is, that’s also how viruses become weak
and disappear. They mutate. They get what are called deletions and there a genetic sequence
and they’re ineffective. In fact, they may be present, but they don’t harm the host. That’s how
they survive. They become a weaker. And so the second wave is a hypothetical.
I know a lot of the day I get I get honestly, when I started writing about this, I was
getting thousands of e-mails from all over the world, from not just regular people,
but top medical scientists, epidemiologists from all over the world thanking me for
being so outspoken on this, saying I’m saying something exactly right
and they’re afraid to come out. Other evidence. So my point as a lead in is other epidemiologists
have noted that the likelihood of a second wave is nowhere near what we thought it was,
in fact. Another example of something that’s unpublicised the W.H.O. itself.
And now Fouchier sort of agreed with this, but the W.H.O. said we think
that the second wave likelihood is less likely than we were talking about. They said that the W.H.O.
recently, she even said, well, we don’t really know. There’s going to be a second wave.
So, I mean, that that’s also not not considering the following, and
that is we are a different country, not we are a different world now we understand how
to deal with this sort of thing. No one knew what the term social distancing meant. I don’t
think before this we don’t. Right. Well, we understand how to how to use
sanitization. We understand who to protect. Which I think, again, we keep forgetting
that there is a targeted population here. We we did a great
kind of learning on the fly on how to mobilize medical resources. And,
you know, I’ve been in discussions with people on how to do that in conjunction with military
strategic mobilization work. And so we are
we’re not just a naive population if there is some sort of second wave,
but the second wave. It’s possible. But I think this idea that, oh, my God,
we’re going to have a second wave, we’d better hunker down. We can’t have schools. What happens in the fall? I just
think this is a gross distortion. Again, just fear based stuff
going on rather than looking at the science. Yeah, and
absolutely. If we if we just keep looking at the
evidence, keep looking at the evidence is all I can ask people to do and stop getting the projections
based on hypotheticals thing that you wrote, something that that was very striking as that. Let’s go back
to the evidence and stop looking at hypotheticals. One of the problems that I’ve seen happening a lot
in this process was that people have been using hypotheticals as evidence, and that’s not the scientific
process we don’t use. I put the hypothesis as evidence hypotheses are to be tested. Right.
And, you know, and we still I think we’re still see there’s a lot of pushback. I mean, I live in a state
that has been moving to towers reopening. And I think the default critique
from the majority of academia is that we’re doing too fast where we’re just putting
ourselves into into a real bad situation very, very soon. Yeah. And the evidence
doesn’t seem to be providing that information. Wants to go look at everywhere that has been reopening.
Absolutely. And again, you don’t have to be political. It’s not a political issue, really,
although it’s been sort of it somehow becomes. Everything is political. But the reality
is, when you look at what states have done that have opened and I would even go so far
as to say I prefer to even look at countries that are not the United States and see what’s
happened because Europe is ahead of us in terms of opening even places that were more damaged.
I’m talking about places like France, Spain, Italy. These places had a far bigger problem
than the United States on a per capita basis. They did much worse than the United States did
in there, the size of basically a big state. And they still couldn’t handle it, by the way, with our health
care system, which is a separate issue. But but the reality is, when you look at these
countries and we know where we are in this pandemic, this thing is
is is not just the same situation and going away and
sort of just controlled by social distancing. This is a fallacy. The reason that this is
gone is because it’s going away, not because of social distancing. And so, in fact,
when you look at the original purpose of the lockdown and the social distancing,
it was to flatten the curve that didn’t change the area under the curve. I
mean, for your students, I think they understand what I’m talking about. I don’t say this in a in a TV
interview. Right. But you know, the area under the curve, meaning the number of deaths per
day, that was never changing. There is a natural curve here
that we’re talking about. The only flattening of a curve had to do
with stopping hospital overcrowding. This disease is going away.
It’s not that it might not recur. It’s not that we don’t have to protect certain populations.
If my father or mother were in a nursing home right now, I would have I would have
pulled them out. But I would have insisted early on that no one can enter
without being cleared of infection. And so I’m still nervous about that group,
because you should always be. And the virus still exists, there’s no question. But but the reality
is that, you know, this is sort of going away as hoped. And honestly,
as expected. And it’s just not the same situation that we were in before it. The
future is, of course, somewhat unpredictable, but not wholly. We don’t throw away decades
of medical science and establish the immunology and virology because we’re nervous.
I mean, that’s just not how it works here. What we did, we did, unfortunately.
Scott, thank you so much for all the work you’ve been doing. And thanks for joining us today. Appreciate the opportunity.
Thanks for listening to Policy McCombs.