- 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)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Heavy)(CBS 58) (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Medical Groups, Local Leaders Push for Healthcare Workers and Public Employees To Get Vaccinated
The move comes as COVID cases have nearly quadrupled in the last month due to the rapid spread of the highly infectious delta variant.
Increased Calls for Mandatory Vaccinations in Certain Sectors
More than 50 of America’s largest medical groups representing millions of healthcare workers issued a statement Monday calling for employers of all health and long-term care providers to require mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations.
The groups, which included the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and 55 others, cited contagious new variants — including delta — and low vaccination rates.
“Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures,” they wrote.
The call to action comes as new COVID cases have almost quadrupled during the month of July, jumping from just around 13,000 infections a day at the beginning of this month to more than 50,000.
While the vast majority of new infections and hospitalizations are among those who have not received the vaccines, many healthcare workers remain unvaccinated. According to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, over 38% of nursing home staff were not fully vaccinated as of July 11.
An analysis by WebMD and Medscape Medical News found that around 25% of hospital workers who were in contact with patients had not been vaccinated by the end of May when vaccinations became widely available.
In addition to calls for medical professionals to get vaccinated, some local leaders have also begun to impose mandates for public employees as cases continue spiking.
Last month, San Francisco announced that it was requiring all city workers to get vaccinated. Also on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that all municipal employees — including police officers and teachers — must either get the jab or agree to weekly testing by the time school starts in September.
Dr. Fauci Says U.S. Officials Are Considering Revising Mask Guidance for Vaccinated People
Numerous top U.S. health officials have applauded efforts by local leaders to mitigate further spread of the coronavirus, including the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who confirmed Sunday that federal officials are actively considering whether to revise federal masking guidelines to recommend that vaccinated Americans wear face coverings in public settings.
In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are vaccinated do not need to mask in public. Although that was a non-binding recommendation, many states and cities that had not already lifted restrictions on masking began to do so shortly after.
But now, local leaders in areas seeing big spikes have begun reimposing mask mandates — even for those who are vaccinated — including major counties like Los Angeles and St. Louis.
In his remarks Sunday, Fauci also emphasized that, despite claims from many conservatives, those efforts are in line with the federal recommendations, which leave space for local leaders to issue their own rules.
While Fauci and other top U.S. public health officials have encouraged local governments to take action, Republican lawmakers in several states are taking steps to limit the ability of local leaders and public health officials to take certain mitigation measures.
According to the Network for Public Health Law, at least 15 state legislatures have passed or are considering bills to limit the legal authority of public health agencies — and that does not even include unilateral action taken by governors.
Some of the leaders of states suffering the biggest spikes have banned local officials from imposing their own mask mandates, like Arkansas, which has the highest per capita cases in the country right now, as well as Florida, which currently ranks third.
Notably, some of the laws proposed or passed by Republicans could go beyond just preventing local officials from trying to mitigate surges in COVID cases and may have major implications for other public health crises.
For example, according to The Washington Post, a North Dakota law that bans mask mandates applies to other breakouts — even tuberculosis — while a new Montana law also bars the use of quarantine for people who have been exposed to an infectious disease but have not yet tested positive.