- 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)
Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”
- Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot.
- So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Florida Requires Proof of Residency
Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.
Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it.
According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.
Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers.
Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited
Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north.
“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”
See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)
Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”
- Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
- Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
- Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.
Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet
Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017.
Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony.
“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”
Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.
“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”
What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”
Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing.
“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”
“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”
Nation Impressed by Gorman
“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”
Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration.
Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation.
Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day.
See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June.
- The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
- Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary.
- It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.
College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay
College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.
Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”
The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary.
While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S.
Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.
With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.
The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test
In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.
In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.
According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.
For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April.