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Marilyn M. Singleton, MD, JD
Politicians are a strange lot. Not content with merely being Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi is moonlighting as Surgeon General, opining on what medications the President should be taking. Service to the public is a distant memory. The new charge is to invent catchy phrases, like the “new normal,” to quietly coax us into obeying dictates, while ignoring facts and science.
It is not normal to base lifting the lockdowns on the trend in positive novel coronavirus (aka SARS-CoV-2) tests. Predictably, positive tests (with many folks never becoming symptomatic) will continue to increase as more tests are done. Given that the stated goal of lockdowns was to lessen the strain on hospital resources, using hospitalization trends makes more sense.
It is not normal for New York and Minnesota governors to insist that COVID-19 patients be admitted to nursing homes, even after it became clear that nursing homes were a hotspot for infections and up to 81% of COVID-19 deaths.
It is not normal for healthy people to walk around wearing masks—particularly when it is not recommended by the sainted World Health Organization.
It is not normal to never see your parents, children, or grandparents. Older folks suffer from loneliness in the best of times.
It is not normal for children to stay home from school indefinitely. When children do go back to school, it is not normal to tell them they have to wear masks and might not be able to play or eat with one another. Meanwhile, the CDC’s latest report tells us that the infection fatality rate for those aged 0-49 years is 0.05%. The CDC’s latest numbers are what Stanford researchers predicted in April.
It is not normal to have cellphone apps that track your movements. I suppose helicopter parents and stalk- ers would make good use of them.
It is not normal to propose “immunity passes” enabling the holders to move about society unimpeded. Immunity passes make no scientific sense given that the serology tests are unreliable, the length of immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is unknown, and invites social stigmatization.
The real “new normal” is politicians being blatant with their old games. It is normal for California’s Governor Newsom to make a secret $1 billion deal with BYD, a Chinese-based electric bus maker, to manufacture N95 masks at $3.30 a piece. Kudos to his fellow Democrat legislators for seeking transparency about his pandemic spending spree.
To his credit, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti purchased 24 million “Made in America” masks from Honeywell at 79 cents a mask.
COVID-19 is a handy justification for Congress to promote a political ideology rather than propose targeted measures to assist those struggling with the consequences of the virus. The HEROES Act, the fourth stimulus bill, presents a path to universal basic income by paying some workers more to stay home than they would receive by returning to work. The CARES Act suspended student loan payments, but the HEROES Act paves the way for free college tuition for all by forgiving up to $10,000 of student loans for every borrower.
Moreover, the HEROES Act contains a multitude of other agenda-driven programs like access to financial services and the marketplace for minority-owned cannabis-related businesses, diversity in banking, a Post Office bail-out, $50 million to the Environmental Protection Agency for environmental justice grants, economic impact payments to illegal immigrants, permanent voting by mail, and the clearly relevant requirement that the President inform Congress of the reasons for not filling a vacancy for an Inspector General position.
The proposed Medicare Crisis Program Act of 2020 would provide health insurance for those who lost their health insurance due to the COVID-19 lockdown and its consequences. We want to help those who lost their jobs, but why use a newly-minted premium-free Medicare program as the vehicle? Is it to get people accustomed to Medicare covering all age groups?
The CONTACT initiative requires the CDC to work with states to implement a national system for testing, contact tracing, surveillance, containment and mitigation of COVID-19. (Have we done this for the infectious and deadly flu?). The CDC regulations, instruct authorities to use the “least restrictive means” in implementing public health measures. However, “when an individual is identified as a threat to the health and welfare of others, such as refusing medical treatment at a healthcare facility and refusing to self quarantine, the government may take the individual into custody.”
The government has been known to abuse its power—whether through cultivating fear, regulatory force, or by individual miscreants. Frederick Douglass warned, “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.” We cannot let a declaration of a public health emergency become the new gauge of what it takes to break our spirit of liberty.
Marilyn M. Singleton, MD, JD, is a board-certified anesthesiologist and immediate past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. She is a graduate of Stanford, UCSF Medical School and UC Berkeley Law School.
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By Jane M. Orient, M.D.
The idea of moving at “warp speed” probably resonates with Star Wars fans.
A galactic empire is impossible if it takes 100 years for a signal, much less a warship, to move from one system to another at the universal speed limit, 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light.
Serious science fiction lovers know that the warp drive does not traverse space at faster-than-light speeds. It warps space, or leaps through another dimension—it takes a massive shortcut.
So, what’s the shortcut for vaccine development?
Safety testing? It is impossible to test for long-term consequences without observing recipients for a long time—not a few days or weeks. If experts are worrying about long-term effects of having the disease, why not about the vaccine? If one consequence might be a massive immune over-reaction to a later exposure to the coronavirus, we’d need to await another outbreak.
Efficacy testing? One way to test for efficacy is to find an animal model. See whether unvaccinated animals get the disease when deliberately exposed, while vaccinated ones are protected. If this works, you still need to test humans: vaccinate one group, give one group a placebo, and see whether a larger proportion of the unvaccinated get sick. Normally, you would wait to see how the subjects fare in the real world, where they might get naturally exposed during their usual activities. This takes time. You could speed this up by giving them all a dose of the virus, which might kill some of them. That would be unethical—wouldn’t it?
One could test for antibodies, but do they work? Some are asserting that the antibodies that survivors have might not protect them. Why would the vaccine antibodies be better? For one thing, the virus might mutate. Maybe it already has.
Then what about production and distribution?
How about sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into producing various vaccine candidates, just in case they work? Then you could just waste it all if they don’t.
For distribution, why not mobilize the armed forces to quickly vaccinate 300 million people? Our furloughed medical workers might not be up to the job. Might arms be needed if people resist? Incidentally, if everybody gets the vaccine, there’s no control group. Doesn’t the scientific method call for one?
Why the hurry?
Experts like Tony Fauci and Bill Gates say we cannot go back to work until there’s “a vaccine.” (Note that they did not say “a safe and effective vaccine.”)
In fact, we could go back today—if the government were not stopping us.
One reason for hurry is that the epidemic might be gone, and the vaccinators couldn’t take the credit. We have no vaccine for the “Spanish” flu of 1918, the “Asian” flu of 1958, or the “Hong Kong” flu of 1968, all of which killed far more than the current pandemic, and all of which went away. A speedy vaccine, which was developed for the predicted 1976 mass extinction/swine flu pandemic that never was, resulted in deaths and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Humanity survived many waves of far more deadly pestilence before vaccines. The smallpox vaccine may have finally eliminated smallpox, but small-pox lesions were identified in Egyptian mummies from the 3rd century B.C., but not in earlier or later mummies. It re-emerged in the 6th and 7th centuries A.D., disappeared until the 11th century, then after being almost absent for about 300 years re-emerged in the 15th century.
In 2020, much has happened with amazing speed: the flattening of the economy, the suspension of civil liberties, the destruction of medical practices. Censorship of any information that the World Health Organization (WHO) doesn’t like, for example about potential game-changers like vitamin D and high-dose vitamin C. The declaration of a new drug remdesivir as the “standard of care” after an underwhelming study was prematurely stopped. The sequencing of the coronavirus genome. Revolutionary experimental DNA and RNA vaccine technologies.
Those who were seemingly prescient about the potential of corona- virus—Bill Gates holds a 2015 patent on a coronavirus created with recombinant gene technology, and the Gates Foundation held a crisis simulation modeled on a coronavirus in October 2019—did nothing to shore up preparedness measures such as equipment stockpiles.
Fear spreads at the speed of light. After 70 years and 100 million users of antimalarial drugs with remarkable safety, FDA is inspiring fear of heart problems from using hydroxy-chloroquine or azithromycin for COVID-10—but don’t worry if it’s for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or malaria.
We need an immediate return to letting doctors practice and letting people work. They need accurate information, so they can make prudent decisions about protecting themselves and their loved ones. We need an immediate end to the dictatorial influence of a few long-entrenched “experts” or media giants, and investigations of conflicts of interest with all deliberate speed.
What we do NOT need is panic-inspired warping of safety testing.
Jane M. Orient, M.D. has been in solo private practice since 1981 and has served as executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) since 1989. She is currently president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness.