- Celebrity talk show host Dr. Oz faced backlash after suggesting the U.S. should consider reopening schools because it “may only cost us 2 to 3%” in terms of mortality.“
- Some incorrectly thought this meant he was willing to let over a million children die, however, with that percentage applied to the project coronavirus deaths, it could still mean thousands of more lives lost.
- Oz backtracked and said he misspoke, meanwhile Dr. Phil came under fire after seemingly minimizing the pandemic by listing incorrect figures about car accidents, swimming pool deaths, and more, then saying we “don’t shut down the country for that.”
- He also suggested that the stay-at-home measures “probably shouldn’t have ever started.”
Dr. Oz on Reopening Schools
Popular celebrity talk show hosts Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil have come under fire for comments they made about coronavirus stay-at-home orders across the country in appearances on Fox News this week.
Dr. Mehmet Oz was the first to face backlash when a clip of him discussing the idea of reopening school began circulating online. “We need our mojo back,” he said in a Tuesday interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity.
“Let’s start with things that are really critical to the nation where we think we might be able to open without getting into a lot of trouble. I tell you, schools are a very appetizing opportunity.”
“I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet arguing that the opening of schools may only cost us 2 to 3% in terms of total mortality. Any, you know, any life is a life lost, but to get every child back into a school where they’re safely being educated, being fed, and making the most out of their lives with a theoretical risk to the backside, that might be a tradeoff some folks would consider. “
The data he cited appeared in an April 6 review in The Lancet, a medical journal. It says, “Recent modeling studies of COVID-19 predict that school closures alone would prevent only 2-4% of deaths, much less than other social distancing interventions.”
Oz’s interpretation of the study appears to suggest that the benefit of reducing overall projected coronavirus deaths by a small percentage may not be comparable to the benefits of sending students back to school.
Some people incorrectly understood the data to mean Oz was willing to let more than a million school children die, which prompted a ton of outrage online.
According to modeling by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, if that percentage range was added to the projected coronavirus deaths, it could account for thousand more lives being lost.
Dr. Oz Responds After Clip Goes Viral
Dr. Oz walked back on his comments Thursday afternoon after his name became a trending topic on Twitter.
“I’ve realized my comments on risks around opening schools have confused and upset people, which was never my intention. I misspoke,” he said in a video response.
He went on to say that as a heart surgeon, he’s been trained to save lives by minimizing risk.
“At the same time, I’m being asked constantly how will we be able to get people back to their normal lives. To do that, one of the important steps will be figuring out how do we get our children back to school.”
“We know that for many kids school is a place of security, nutrition, and learning that is missing right now,” he added before saying he would continue looking for solutions to “beat this virus.”
Dr. Oz is already a controversial authority who has been accused by other medical professionals of promoting questionable treatments for his own financial gain.
A Senate Panel questioned him in 2014 about his promotion of green coffee bean extract as a weight loss product. At the time, Senator Claire McCaskill said she was concerned that he was “melding advice, news, and entertainment in a way that harms consumers.”
That same year, the British Medical Journal also released a report that said about half of the claims Dr.Oz made on his show, “The Dr. Oz Show,” were not supported by scientific evidence.
The following year physicians called for Oz to be fired from Columbia University’s medical school where he is a professor. The physicians said he has “repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine.”
However, Dr. Oz has hit back at criticism on Facebook, writing, “I bring the public information that will help them on their path to be their best selves. We provide multiple points of view, including mine which is offered without conflict of interest. That doesn’t sit well with certain agendas which distort the facts.”
In 2018, President Donald Trump appointed Dr. Oz to a council on sports, fitness, and nutrition as part of the Department of Health and Human Services. He has appeared frequently on Fox News to discuss the pandemic, previously touting the use of hydroxychloroquine when other experts have warned there is not enough reliable evidence to prove the drug is effective at treating COVID-19.
Dr. Phil Faces Backlash
Dr. Oz wasn’t the only television doctor to come under fire. On Thursday, Dr. Phil McGraw also began seeing a flood of criticism after seemingly minimizing the severity of the virus.
In a Thursday interview with Fox New’s Laura Ingraham, he was critical of stay-at-home orders across the country, claiming that the strain on people’s mental health and problems that come along with lockdowns will cause more deaths than the virus itself.
“This is invisible. I can’t show you an X-ray of depression, I can’t show you an X-ray of anxiety, but the fact of the matter is, the longer this lockdown goes on, the more vulnerable people get,” the television personality said.
“250 people a year die from poverty. And the poverty line is getting such that more and more people are going to fall below that because the economy is crashing around us,” he added.
“And they’re doing that because people are dying from the coronavirus. I get that, but, look, the fact of the matter is we have people dying, 45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes, 360,000 a year from swimming pools, but we don’t shut the country down for that. But yet, we’re doing it for this? And the fallout is going to last for years because peoples’ lives are being destroyed.”
Many online took issue with him comparing a contagious virus to accidents and situations that exist with broad preventive measures in place. For instance, it’s extremely difficult to eliminate all car accident deaths, but there are existing measures aimed at reducing deaths, like speed limits, seat belts, and other safety features.
The point many were trying to make is that the lockdowns are aimed at reducing the number of people who die from the virus. And because this virus is so new, there simply aren’t many tools we can use to help deal with it. What do know is that limiting person to person contact is effective.
However, in another viral clip where Dr. Phil gives advice to those stuck at home, he suggests that the stay-at-home measures “probably shouldn’t have ever started.”
While slamming his comments, some threw McGraw’s credibility into question because of the skewed numbers he threw out, also noting that he is a controversial medical figure who is not a licensed psychologist or a physician with any infectious disease expertise.
For the sake of fact-checking, let’s take a look at McGraw’s claims.
His number for people who die from poverty, for instance, is incredibly low, so it’s unclear if he misspoke since a higher number would’ve been better for his argument. A study from 2011 said “approximately 245 000 deaths in the United States in 2000 were attributable to low education, 176 000 to racial segregation, 162 000 to low social support, 133 000 to individual-level poverty, 119 000 to income inequality, and 39 000 to area-level poverty.
His claim that 360,000 people die a year from swimming pools is also quite odd. If we assume he means the deaths are caused by drowning, reports show that there are actually about 3,500 deaths a year according to the Centers for Disease Control, though it’s not clear how many are in pools.
But the numbers are beside the point when you again note the preventative measures that already exist for those situations and the differences between those cases and this contagious virus.
Dr. Fauci Urges Caution in Reopening Economy
The comments from McGraw were a stark contrast to comments that came just before his segment, when the nation’s leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to Ingraham.
Fauci urged taking a cautious approach for reopening the economy while discussing the government’s guidelines for doing so slowly. However, he ended up disputing Ingraham’s coronavirus comparisons to HIV and SARS.
He said that while there are no vaccines for HIV, there are effective, life-saving treatments. He also said SARS disappeared, but given the unprecedented spread of the coronavirus, he doesn’t expect it to just disappear.
To date, there are more than 2.17 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, and at least 146,055 people have died.
Over 33,00 of the deaths have been reported in the U.S., which has the highest death toll in the world, a number that would surely be much higher without the social distancing measures currently in place.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NJ.com) (Fox News)
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.