As physicians, we know people are hurting and frustrated during this time of COVID-19.
But we’ve also seen the human impact of this infection. And we took a Hippocratic oath to protect our patients.
This is why we feel we have no choice but to correct the inaccuracies in the two op/eds in this newspaper by Sen. Steve Halloran (Hastings Tribune, Apirl 14 and Hastings Tribune, April 22).
Unfortunately, our senator first chose to put out his opinion without consulting any local health officials or physicians.
Instead, he cited a statistician, Dr. Knut Wittkowski, whose university has disavowed his statements. His study was not peer reviewed by any experts prior to publishing and has since been found to have many flaws.
Notably, his model predicted COVID-19 would cause fewer than 10,000 U.S. deaths, and herd immunity would be achieved for 80% of the population in four weeks.
Unfortunately, despite social distancing, our U.S. death total is over 50,000 in less than two months.
A recent study in New York showed that 13% to 21% of the population was exposed to coronavirus and this resulted in more than 11,000 deaths and overwhelmed the medical system.
One can imagine what would happen if we allowed 80% of population to be exposed over a few weeks as the senator proposes.
Virtually every legitimate public health expert agrees with Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx that social distancing has worked, yet the senator seems to focus solely on them.
Dr. Fauci was appointed by President Reagan and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bush, and Dr. Birx served as a colonel in the U.S Army.
To dismiss two distinguished physicians who have worked tirelessly to save thousands of American lives as “bureaucrats who were trying to undermine Trump” is both inaccurate and insulting.
To say they are “immoral” is an embarrassment.
The predictions of a high death rate (N. Ferguson et al.) were accurate at the time they were made, and assumed worst case scenario — no interventions.
Social distancing has been a huge success, just as virtually every public health scientist predicted.
The only ones who would disagree are the politicians and pundits who want to now play Monday morning quarterback.
This is like a patient who is seriously ill but doesn’t want to admit it.
The doctor convinces him to take the treatment he needs, and the patient recovers.
Instead of thanking the doctor, the patient gets angry and says “see, this just proves I was never sick all along!”
The fact that social distancing has significantly reduced mortality doesn’t fly in the face of common sense, as Sen. Halloran says. It’s basic grade school math.
If numbers are doubling (each infected person can infect 2-3 others), they will reach astronomical levels.
The sooner you can stop the doubling the better. That’s what social distancing does.
Sen. Halloran also mentions the H1N1 pandemic.
Coronavirus is more infectious and lethal; furthermore, an H1N1 vaccine was available in a much shorter time.
Schools aren’t closed now because children are more at risk, they’re closed to stop the spread of the virus to others.
The senator states that he hasn’t been given evidence to counter his position on herd immunity.
Here is the evidence he needs to understand.
Humans do not develop long-term immunity to many viruses such as RSV, influenza, etc.
So, before sacrificing many lives in hopes of “herd immunity,” it would be prudent to know if humans can develop immunity after a COVID-19 infection, and if so, for how long.
Without this crucial information, the argument of herd immunity becomes meaningless.
Great Britain initially planned to attempt the herd immunity approach; however, quickly backed off as the death toll mounted.
Currently, Great Britain has over twice the number of COVID-19 deaths per population as the U.S. Sweden decided not to practice social distancing, and now has a death rate 10 times that of its Scandinavian neighbors.
The senator’s suggestion of only two choices is a false narrative.
Nebraskans don’t need “liberating.” We have always been a strong and free people. And we know what it means to sacrifice.
We’ve had to sacrifice during droughts, wars, floods and tornados. We made it through those times because we knew we were all in the fight together.
We helped and supported one another. Those were hard times.
And, yes, so are these.
But now it’s even more important that we stay in the fight together.
Whether Sen. Halloran wishes to admit or not, as a nation we’ve made real progress in bending the curve for both infections and death.
Currently, central Nebraska is seeing a significant rise in cases with Grand Island at the forefront of the surge.
Reopen too early, and all of the efforts the past six weeks will be for naught.
As physicians, we may not have always seen eye-to-eye with President Trump, but we do agree with him on one thing: We are at war.
The enemy is the SARS-CoV2 virus. The enemy is not scientists, public health workers and doctors.
You don’t win a war by giving up the fight, nor by taking your eye off the enemy and disparaging your allies.
This letter was submitted by Dr. Zachary Frey, director of primary care and attending hospitalist at Mary Lanning Healthcare.
The following signed the letter:
- Dr. Abel Luksan, chief medical officer, Mary Lanning Healthcare
- Dr. Daniel Brailita, president of medical staff and infectious disease specialist, Mary Lanning Healthcare
- Dr. Ben Fago, director of emergency services, Mary Lanning Healthcare
- Dr. Shellie Faris, chair of surgery, Mary Lanning Healthcare
- Dr. Daniel Leonard, director of neonatal intensive care unit, chair of women and children’s health
- Dr. Curtis Reimer, Family Medical Center of Hastings
- Dr. Matthew Stritt, director of intensive care unit, Mary Lanning Healthcare
- Dr. Jerry Seiler, Hastings General Surgery