- 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)
Donald Trump and Eldest Three Children Hit With Fraud Lawsuit From New York AG
AG Letitia James says that the former president “falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself.”
Lawsuit Filed Against Trump
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Wednesday that she filed a civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump and his three eldest children over allegations that they fraudulently inflated asset valuations within the Trump Organization.
Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump are all listed alongside their father in the lawsuit. Executives Jeffrey McConney and Allen Weisselberg, the latter of whom recently pled guilty to tax crimes, are also listed alongside other Trump businesses.
“Donald Trump, with the help of his children…and senior executives at the Trump Organization, falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to induce banks to lend money to the Trump Organization on more favorable terms than would otherwise have been available to the company, to satisfy continuing loan covenants, to induce insurers to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums, and to gain tax benefits, among other things,” a press release announcing the lawsuit claimed.
The Attorney General’s office claims that between 2011 and 2021, Trump and the Trump Organization made 200 false and misleading claims about asset values on annual financial statements.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in a State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
“The complaint demonstrates that Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and to cheat the system, thereby cheating all of us,” James said while announcing the complaint.
Her office is seeking to permanently ban Trump and his children from serving as an officer or director in any New York corporation and to bar Trump and his organization from entering into any New York real estate acquisitions for five years. The office is also seeking to recover $250 million in penalty payments, among other forms of relief.
The Office of the Attorney General has also referred the matter to the federal attorneys in New York and to the IRS for criminal investigation.
“There aren’t two sets of laws for people in this nation: former presidents must be held to the same standards as everyday Americans,” James added in a statement on social media.
“Trump’s crimes are not victimless,” she continued. “When the well-connected and powerful break the law to get more money than they are entitled to, it reduces resources available to working people, small businesses, and taxpayers.”
Trump Allegedly Inflated Key Assets
According to James’ release, Trump “made known through Mr. Weisselberg that he wanted his net worth on his statements to increase every year.”
“And the statements were the vehicle by which his net worth was fraudulently inflated by billions of dollars year after year,” the release continued.
Among the assets Trump and his organization allegedly inflated was the Trump Tower Triplex, an apartment Trump allegedly claimed was 30,000 square feet when it is just around 11,000 square feet. Because of its ballooned size, the property was valued at $327 million in 2015, roughly three times as much as the sole apartment in New York City to ever sell for over $100 million at the time.
For further comparison, the highest sale for a listing in Trump Tower at the time was only $16 million.
Trump also allegedly claimed Mar-a-Lago was valued as high as $739 million based on the “false premise” that the property could be developed and sold for residential use. The lawsuit claims that Trump actually signed deeds donating those rights, limiting the property’s use to a social club. James and her office claim its value would fall closer to $75 million.
Inflated Clauations Cannot Be “Excused”
“The inflated asset valuations in the Statements cannot be brushed aside or excused as merely the result of exaggeration or good faith estimation about which reasonable real estate professionals may differ,” the lawsuit states, adding that instead, they are the result of improper methodology intentionally meant to falsely boost Trump’s net worth.
The investigation into Trump’s alleged fraud began nearly three years ago, and the former president has repeatedly called it a politically motivated witch hunt. His attorney, Alina Habba, doubled down on that rhetoric in a statement Wednesday.
“Today’s filing is neither focused on the facts nor the law – rather, it is solely focused on advancing the Attorney General’s political agenda,” Habba said. “We are confident that our judicial system will not stand for this unchecked abuse of authority, and we look forward to defending our client against each and every one of the Attorney General’s meritless claims.”
For his part, Trump has blasted the lawsuit on Truth Social, calling James a “fraud” and a “crime-fighting disaster.”
Trump previously tried to impede the probe but was ultimately ordered by a judge to sit for a deposition and turn over subpoenaed documents. Reports say he pled the fifth hundreds of times during his deposition.
See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (The Washington Post) (Reuters)
Hurricane Fiona Causes “Catastrophic” Damage in Puerto Rico, Leaving Many Without Power
While power has been restored to some, more than a million remain without it as continued rainfall, flooding, and landslides are expected to cause further damage across the island.
Hurricane Fiona Wreaks Havoc
Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico Sunday, bringing heavy rains, flooding, and landslides, while also knocking out power for the entire island and killing at least one person.
Photos and videos posted on social media show floodwaters consuming major streets and engulfing cars. Some pictures show an entire bridge flooded, making it impassible. Other footage shows a different bridge entirely uprooted and a metal barrier ripped away from the road and floating down a river of floodwater.
Officials have said conditions are still too dangerous to fully evaluate the extent of the crisis. In remarks to the public, Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, described the damage as “catastrophic.”
He asserted that the storm has been one of the most significant since Hurricane Maria — which hit the island almost exactly 5 years ago to the day — killing more than 3,000 people, leaving many without power for months, and causing destruction that the island is still recovering from.
Pierluisi noted that Puerto Rico has received over 30 inches of rain and that some areas have even gotten more rain than during Hurricane Maria. As of Monday afternoon, the National Gaurd has led 30 rescue operations so far, saving more than 1,000 stranded residents in 25 municipalities, according to the governor.
Pierluisi also added that more than 2,000 people were in the island’s 128 shelters, with officials further saying there is plenty of shelter space for those who need it. On Sunday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, which will allow federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief.
Continued Issues As Storm Rages On
Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s water authority has confirmed that just over 70% of the island is still without water. According to poweroutage.us, more than 1.3 million customers were still without power as of Monday morning.
The power company LUMA also stated that electricity had been restored to around 100,000 customers over the course of Sunday night, though it previously warned that the full restoration of power could take several days as the storm has created “incredibly challenging” conditions.
While Hurricane Fiona has passed through Puerto Rico, having now made landfall in the Dominican Republic, officials and experts say that heavy rains and further flooding are still to be expected for the next few days.
The National Weather Service has warned that “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding” as well as mudslides and landslides are expected to continue across the island. As a result, Pierluisi has urged Puerto Ricans Monday to remain home and in shelters so that officials can continue to respond to others in need.
He also noted that the areas most impacted by the hurricane include the southern part of the island, the southwest, and the mountains.
After moving through the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Fiona is expected to head towards Turks and Caicos Tuesday. The National Hurricane Center has said that the storm will continue to grow and by Wednesday, it is set to become a major hurricane — which means a Category 3 or higher.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Government Aid Cut Child Poverty in Half During Pandemic, Data Shows
The reduction occurred similarly across geography, race, family type, and citizenship status.
Largest Drop in Half a Century
The United States’s child poverty rate sank to the lowest level on record last year, primarily thanks to pandemic relief measures and other government programs, according to an analysis of census data released Tuesday.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed data from the Census Bureau’s supplementary poverty measure, which accounts for safety net programs and tax credits as well as regional differences in the cost of living.
From around 11% in 2019, the percentage of kids living below the poverty line fell to 9.7% in 2020 and 5.2% the year after that.
In just two years, nearly 5.5 million kids were lifted from poverty, marking an almost 60% drop in the child poverty rate.
The Center’s researchers gave most credit to the federal government’s numerous interventions in the economy, from stimulus payments and the expanded child tax credit to eviction moratoriums and expanded unemployment insurance.
Without government intervention, poverty in 2020 would have experienced its second-largest recorded increase, the Center claimed, but instead, it underwent the largest single-year decline in over half a century.
Especially impactful was the expanded child tax credit, which sent up to $300 per child to households with children every month between July and December 2021.
According to the analysis, this policy alone pulled nearly three million kids out of poverty.
But the tax credit’s expansion expired at the end of the year despite Democrats’ efforts to prolong it with Biden’s signature Build Back Better bill, which was blocked by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who reportedly told colleagues he was concerned that families might use the payments to buy drugs.
Poverty Before COVID
Child poverty has fallen by 59% since 1993, when it sat at around 28%, according to another analysis published Sunday by The New York Times and the nonpartisan group Child Trends.
They found that the decline occurred across all 50 states and D.C., as well as in different levels of poverty.
It similarly affected nearly all subgroups of children, — white, Black, Asian and Hispanic, single-parent and two-parent, immigrant and non-immigrant.
The causes driving the pre-pandemic decline included general economic improvement — low unemployment, a higher labor force participation rate among single mothers, and growing state minimum wages — but the researchers pinned government welfare programs as the dominant factor.
They specifically mentioned the earned income tax credit, social security, unemployment insurance, and nutrition and housing assistance.
Despite the positive trend, more than eight million children still live below the poverty line, and that number excludes those who live just above it but still struggle to meet basic needs.
The current poverty line sits around $29,000 for a family of four in a location with typical living costs.
Moreover, disparities still persist, with Black and Latino children about three times as likely as their white peers to be poor.