It's Time to "Cancel" Covid Minimizing Doctors
Public health pundits deserve to be called out for spreading misinformation.
Throughout modern history, there have been doctors willing to use their credentials to spread lies and misinformation. They misled the public about radium, lead, asbestos, and tobacco. They helped the Reagan administration suppress coverage of the HIV crisis.
They were behind the disastrous "war on drugs."
Now they're doing Covid.
Enough is enough.
We've had enough Covid minimizing. We're tired of hearing "no cause for alarm" every single time a wave begins. We've done this for three years now. Every single time, there was a desperate need to bring back masks and install proper clean air technologies in our public spaces. Every single time, Covid minimizing doctors got in the way and stalled progress. We've had enough of the media outlets who continue to platform them.
People are dying.
Lives are being ruined by Long Covid. The victims include teenagers and children, people who would've otherwise had a full happy life ahead of them. Heading into our fourth year with this virus, we have an overwhelming and undeniable mountain of evidence that there's no such thing as a mild case of Covid. There's no such thing as natural or herd immunity.
It's time to stop.
We're going to talk about the minimizers:
First, there's the bizarre Bob Wachter who said in 2022 that Covid remained "a real threat" but also admitted he was also going to start eating out again. More than anyone, Wachter has normalized the worst stance on the virus, fully acknowledging risks while simultaneously rationalizing the exact kind of activities that would maximize your exposure.
This is why the public won't take Covid seriously, because "experts" like this continually model poor behavior.
Wachter famously mocked his own wife for wearing a mask on a crowded flight, only to admit her health "is not great" barely three weeks later and that she was diagnosed with Long Covid.
After that he went on a media tour, congratulating himself on his decision to mask up in large gatherings but not during meetings or his frequent meals out. And it comes as no surprise, Wachter got Covid. He passed out, but apparently it was from his hot shower and not Covid syncope.
He fractured his neck.
Now Bob posts photos of himself in a neck cast, continuing to downplay Covid after it very nearly killed him.
Way to go, Bob.
In 2021, Vinay Prasad strongly advocated against vaccinating children against Covid. In his exact words, "Children DO NOT NEED a sars-cov-2 vaccine before they are permitted to return to normal activities. If the pandemic is abating, how can you justify giving 100 kids those AEs (adverse events), so that perhaps 1 or 2 or even 3 will be spared a case of Covid that might be as mild as the AEs themselves? We are going back to normal." Since then, Prasad has continued to insist that Covid doesn't harm children.
He was wrong.
We now have abundant evidence that Covid is harming children and teens. Even media outlets are starting to acknowledge how devastating Long Covid has been on kids, and it's likely worse than we know.
The supposedly draconian "lockdowns" and school closures were protecting them this entire time, while public health paranas like Prasad simply ranted and complained, himself offering zero evidence. Schools have spent more than a year pressuring and in some cases forcing students to attend in-person classes. As many as 1 in 6 children infected with Covid develop Long Covid. Their symptoms last for months, and they include the same brain and organ damage we've seen in adults, not to mention immune disruption. As we speak, schools are having to close because of rampant infections. It's not just Covid. It's the weakened immune response predicted by experts.
Jonathan Howard details several of Prasad's false claims about vaccines. It's no surprise that Prasad eventually starts contradicting himself in 2022. After spending a full year telling the public that children are less likely to get Covid, he switches to a new argument:
Most children have already had Covid.
First they didn't need vaccines because they weren't going to get Covid. Then they didn't need vaccines because they already had it.
Prasad's rhetoric is shot through with logical fallacies. It doesn't matter what's happening. He'll use anything to advocate for the same anti-vaxxer stance that "healthy kids" shouldn't be vaccinated.
Howard says it well:
Whether cases were going up or down, the facts on the ground were used to support their unshakable, predetermined conclusion that unvaccinated children should contract COVID.
Though they claim to “follow the evidence,” their minds were made up months before any evidence even existed.
It would be one thing if Prasad only argued against vaccines, but he doesn't. He argues against masks and clean air. Here he is trashing Corsi-Rosenthal boxes while calling advocates of clean air "out of touch with 96% of Americans who have returned to normal life."
Here he is accusing Ashish Jha of corruption because companies that provide clean air technology don't do it for free. For the record, clean air is one of the few things Jha has been right about.
More than anyone, Prasad seems proud to be wrong.
He wears it like a badge.
Monica Gandhi famously said "variant schmariant" in response to early warnings about Delta. As early as February 2021, she was already making light of "renewed panic about variants in the state of CA" and telling everyone, "Let's be calm and vaccinate," when large portions of the population weren't even eligible to receive shots yet. She went on record with the San Fransisco Gate in an interview entitled, "Stop panicking about the Covid-19 variants." She ultimately apologized on Mehdi Hasan for being outrageously wrong.
This didn't stop her from continuing to criticize mask mandates a year later, saying "I don't think we can impose mask mandates on the public anymore. There is not enough level of evidence to mandate."
Like other anti-maskers, Gandhi routinely limits her remarks to cloth and surgical masks. She hardly says a word about N95s.
Heads up, they work.
A Royal Society review has finally said what many of us have argued for years, that N95 masks combined with other measures are unequivocally effective. Epidemiologists have also said that RCTs simply can't tell us whether masks themselves work.
A new study has also confirmed that viral load matters.
Even imperfect masking and air filters save lives.
The less exposure, the better.
Gandhi gets it wrong because she consistently engages in sampling bias. As she admits, she uses her home city of San Fransisco as a microcosm for the pandemic at large. She has frequently had to qualify or apologize for making universalized claims about Covid based on her own limited, narrow experiences and data specific to that city. To be clear, San Fransisco has served as a model for every other city with its mask and vaccine policies, as well as its compliance. Instead of promoting San Fransisco as a success story, Gandhi has repeatedly focused on the "distrust" caused by the policies that saved lives. She has used data from one of the most Covid-aware cities in the world to argue against taking those measures anywhere else. Hence, people don't. And they suffer.
For the last year, Gandhi also helped spread the false and dangerous myth about immunity debt, dismissing the mounting evidence that Covid causes immune damage and disruption. Instead, she encouraged parents to keep letting their children get infected with diseases.
She was wrong about that, too.
Now she continues to promote myths about "natural immunity," going so far as to suggest that only older and immunosuppressed Americans or those with comorbidities even need boosters. Gandhi advocates against every tool and public health measure we have (except a weak case for ventilation), while publishing a book that advocates those very things, and then she holds signings at bookstores that still require masks.
The Covid minimizers are becoming victims of their own privileged advice and causal eugenics. Earlier this year, Leana Wen wound up in the hospital with all of the classic signs of a stealth Covid infection, even though she tested negative. As she herself is forced to admit, "I perserverated on how a healthy person such as me could suddenly become so sick. I exercised regularly. In fact, just days before, I'd completed my first triathlon." She did everything you're not supposed to do, brushing off all the early warning signs.
Epidemiologists and millions of adults with a modicum of common sense said over and over again, Covid poses a risk to healthy people.
Leana Wen didn't get the memo.
Leana Wen has spent the better part of three years sermonizing the return to normal at any cost. Practically every month, she goes on CNN or The Washington Post to advocate infection over prevention.
She saw what comes of that firsthand.
Still, Leana Wen can't bring herself to admit the real lesson in all of this. It's entirely possible, even likely that a prior Covid infection did damage to her body and set her up for post-Covid pneumonia. She shouldn't have been so cavalier about relying solely on vaccines.
That's the real lesson.
Leana Wen's reflection includes no recommendations about masks or clean air. She could've used her glaring mistake as an opportunity to advocate for those measures, still so poorly understood and implemented across the country and the wider world. Instead, she concludes with a series of platitudes about paying attention to warning signs.
Barely a month later, she returns to The Washington Post with a column insisting "the uptick in Covid cases isn't cause for alarm."
Apparently, she learned nothing.
(Or she's pretending.)
I was going to talk about Jay Bhattacharya until discovering that he's an avid and outspoken supporter of Ron DeSantis, whose disastrous public health policies not only killed tens of thousands of his own voters but also brought back diseases like malaria and leprosy. And I was going to talk more about Francois Balloux, who accuses the Covid cautious of "gloom and doom" while insisting that most cases of Long Covid are "psychosomatic" or made up.
Honestly, it does finally get tedious to list out the number of lies and false predictions made by these minimizers. They make the same kinds of claims. They display the same kind of arrogance.
They're the reason we're here.
They're the reason why our schools still don't have clean air. They're the reason we can't get our friends, family, coworkers, and teachers to wear an effective mask. They're the reason why we can't get back to normal. They've done more damage to public health than anyone in recent history.
It's a miracle they can sleep at night.
Maybe they can't...
This is what the Covid minimizers do. They intentionally conflate concern with Covid for "panic" and "alarm." They equivocate. They gently guide the public away from making any effort to prevent infection in the first place. It's starting to become clear that the minimizers might actually believe their own lies. They actually do believe they're too healthy to get Long Covid. They actually do think they can get infected and reinfected without consequence. They really do think a trip to the ER will save them, and that they'll get to go back to normal. They're willing to take us down with them.
At first, I thought it was about money. Then I thought maybe it was about fame and power. Now I know it's about a desperate attempt to be right, to save face after so many embarrassing mistakes. Now I get it.
They're never going to admit they were wrong.
They would rather die.