May 20, 2020 by Paul Strand
A new grassroots organization of doctors is telling the nation it needs a second opinion about the way to handle this pandemic medically and mentally.
During a media call, several of these doctors spoke of horrible medical results for people because of excessive panic over the coronavirus. They also told of harm done to ill or injured people because the medical world has been largely cut off to them while almost all resources have been redirected to deal exclusively with COVID-19.
Dr. Simone Gold is an emergency room physician documenting these harms as she’s contacted fellow medical professionals across the country and helped form this new group A Doctor A Day.
For Fear of the Virus, ‘They’re Actually Hurting Themselves’
“People are not getting their health care,” Gold shared. “We’re so worried about the fact that patients believe that they are going to get sick if they show up for medical tests. But they’re actually hurting themselves.”
They’re avoiding hospitals even during emergencies.
“There are all these patients out there not showing up to emergency departments,” Gold stated, saying where she works, “The volume in the emergency department is incredibly low. Maybe 60 percent of what it usually is. And this is across the nation. Everybody’s had the same experience, excluding the New York metropolitan area.”
“Actually, it’s quite empty,” she reported, saying of her own hospital, “I got a letter just this last week that we are firing 50 percent of our technicians.”
Layoffs have been widespread in hospitals across the country since the pandemic hit.
They’re Telling Trump Real World Examples of People Hurt
More than 600 of these physicians involved with A Doctor A Day have sent a letter to President Trump, asking his coronavirus task force to keep in mind the full implications of a shutdown.
In that letter, they warn millions of Americans are endangered by much of the medical world being cut off from them or by them cutting themselves off from it.
The letter says, “These include 150,000 Americans per month who would have had a new cancer detected through a routine screening that hasn’t happened, millions who have missed routine dental care to fix problems strongly linked to heart disease/death, and preventable cases of stroke, heart attack, and child abuse. Suicide hotline phone calls have increased 600%.”
The letter includes actual cases from the doctors’ own practices:
“Patient A.F. has chronic but previously stable health conditions. Her elective hip replacement was delayed, which caused her to become sedentary, resulting in a pulmonary embolism in April.”
“Patient R.T. is an elderly nursing home patient, who had a small stroke in early March but was expected to make a nearly complete recovery. Since the shutdown, he has had no physical or speech therapy, and no visitors. He has lost weight, and is deteriorating rather than making progress.”
Flattening the Curve Made Sense, but Not Much Has Since
In the media call, Gold spoke of the goal America was originally given when everyone was told they must “flatten the curve.” That goal was making sure hospitals weren’t overwhelmed by potentially millions of people dangerously ill from the coronavirus.
She agreed with that goal when it was first voiced, saying, “I always was concerned if we’d have enough ventilators and ICU staff. That was always what I knew to be the potential problem. So I was encouraged when people said that we were going to try to slow things down for that particular reason. That makes medical sense. Everything that has followed since that does not make scientific sense and is flat-out detrimental to society.”
“I cannot say strongly enough that the healthcare system not only is not overwhelmed, it is underwhelmed,” Gold insisted. “I can tell you of scores of nurses who’ve been laid off and scores of technicians who’ve been laid off. And in my specialty, emergency physicians have cut their hours by 35 percent. I’ve never seen anything like this in my career. My point is: the curve has been flattened.”
“The reality is that we are way past the time where being locked down makes any scientific or medical sense,” said Dr. Jeff Barke, a primary care physician in Newport Beach, California.
Herd Immunity Seriously Hampered
He talked up the idea of herd immunity and addressed what he sees as the danger and illogic of keeping children and young people locked up.
“We are taking the healthiest folks – the youngest, the strongest: our children – and we are in effect protecting the healthiest herd from being exposed and allowing them to get herd immunity,” Barke argued. “We’re seeing over and over, especially with the statistics on children, that children are almost completely spared from the ravages of this virus.”
Santa Monica pediatrician Robert Hamilton added to the point, saying, “COVID-19 has actually been a relatively benign infection for children. In one study of about 150,000 people, only 1.7 percent of them were in the age category between zero and 18 years of age.”
He pointed out those few young people infected were for the most part asymptomatic, meaning the small number who were sickened were, as he put it, “a tiny minority of a tiny minority.”
Pediatrician Assures Children Won’t ‘Infect All of Us & Kill Us All’
But the fact that most children will by asymptomatic has caused the fear that if schools open up again and most of the students get infected, they’ll unknowingly carry the virus to the people who could be hurt or even killed by it.
Or, as Hamilton paraphrased those who worry about such a thing, “’Oh my gosh, children are the ones who are going to infect all of us and kill us all!’”
Hamilton said of that, “There was a recent study following a child who turned positive in the French Alps. He was exposed to over a hundred people. None of them turned positive.” The pediatrician also cited a study done in Iceland that shows basically the same results.
He suggested these studies say of infected children, “They are not what I call ‘the bubonic plague rodents’ that we sometimes look at them as.’ Children are not actually the cause of the problem…they’re not the super-spreaders that people sometimes think.”
So he argues for schools opening sooner rather than later.
Care Put Off Can Cause Many Medical Crises
This new group A Doctor A Day is also pointing out how halting most so-called “non-essential” surgeries and treatments during the pandemic can cause multiple medical crises.
Gold explained, “There are problems pushing off what’s called ‘an elective surgery.’ That’s a very gray area. Things go from ‘elective’ to ‘urgent’ rapidly.”
Dr. Steven Giannotta echoed what Gold said, speaking of the crucial surgeries done by him and his associates at a hospital at the University of Southern California: surgeries for cancer, brain aneurysms, brain tumors, heart and liver transplants, and stroke care.
“When the lockdown came, we dutifully reduced our capacity to approximately 30 percent of normal,” Giannotta reported. “All of those patients who were in the pipeline to have their cancer treated or their brain aneurysm treated or their spinal condition treated were all put on hold.”
And that put many of those patients at increased risk.
On the flip side, the care Giannotta was not willing to see cut back involves stroke victims. But many of those people just aren’t showing up to get examined and get care. “Which means people are sitting at home with potential symptoms of stroke and are, for whatever reason, refusing to access the healthcare system,” Giannotta explained.
Media’s Made Being COVID Positive Feel More Dangerous Than It Is
He put much of the blame for that on news coverage, saying, “We’ve allowed the media to try to stigmatize COVID positivity.”
Many people are already afraid they’ll get the virus at a medical office or in a hospital, and Giannotta charged media link getting the COVID virus to death: “They’ve stigmatized now our healthcare system and people are afraid to access the healthcare system for fear of becoming COVID positive, as if that is the worst possible outcome.”
But he pointed out the odds for most people dying from COVID-19 are actually statistically very low, “Whereas all of our patients with care for their brain tumors being delayed and along with our stroke victims, who are unfortunately suffering strokes because they won’t access the healthcare system, are being very severely impacted by these lockdown tactics.”
They’re Hurting Their Heart for Fear of the Virus Hurting Them
Speaking of heart conditions, Gold added, “Why are we not concerned patients are not showing up at their cardiologist’s when it’s well-known if you don’t go to the cardiologist’s regularly, your heart disease will worsen? Why are we not concerned about the stroke patients that are having strokes at home, not getting treated or dying?”
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States,” cardiologist Gabe Vorobiof at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles pointed out.
Speaking of those suffering from heart conditions, he reported they’re not keeping their doctors’ appointments or going to hospitals because “there are a huge number of patients that are simply terrified of what the media is putting out and they’re terrified of contracting this infection.”
The results of that are deadly. “In-home cardiac arrests in the New York area are up 800 percent,” Vorobiof shared. “The majority of those cardiac arrest patients were not revived.” In other words, they died.
“Ambulatory cardiology practices have seen about a 60 percent decline in patient volumes since late March. We’ve seen across-the-board reductions in patients presenting with acute myocardial infarctions (heart attacks),” Vorobiof reported, saying the same is true of those suffering strokes. “We’ve also seen reduction of patient visits for valve disease and transcatheter valve replacement. Procedures are way down.”
Lockdowns & Pandemic-Panic Making Many Mental Problems Worse
Gold introduced psychiatrist Dr. Mark McDonald, saying, “He’s had patients commit suicide because of depression and picking up drug use again.”
McDonald runs a practice in West Los Angeles for children, adolescents, and other young people. He said during the lockdown, “I have had probably a 50 percent decline in patient visits due to patients being scared of coming to the office. These are children, adolescents, and young adults. They’re worried that if they get the coronavirus infection, they’ll die. And that’s what they’re hearing in the media and that’s what their parents are telling them.”
He added, “And this is not isolated. I’ve had many patients call me recently in a state of panic. They don’t know what to do. They’re drinking again. They’re thinking of jumping off a bridge. They’re really suffering and there’s very little I can do. I have nowhere to send them because there are no resources available. Often they won’t even come into the office.”
‘A Pandemic of Hysteria’
“This, in my view, is a pandemic of hysteria and emotional overwhelm,” McDonald stated. “It’s not a medical pandemic. But the downstream consequences medically are very, very severe.”
“There’s an emotional and social toll that this is taking on children, being in lockdown for this period of time,” said pediatrician Hamilton, backing up McDonald. “Issues of depression, suicide threats, that sense of futility, despair, fear, paranoia really, are taking ahold in our younger people, particularly older kids, junior high and high school ages.”
Psychiatrist McDonald added, “I’ve had to increase my frequency and dosage of benzodiazepines, which is the valium and Xanax family of drugs, which are highly addictive, in order to treat overwhelming increases of panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder symptoms, and generalized anxiety.”
He added, “I hate using these drugs; I’m very conservative in my prescribing them. But I don’t have any choice because patients have no other resources. A lot of my patients have had substance abuse issues. They have nowhere to go. All of the AA meetings, 12-Step programs, outpatient and inpatient substance abuse programs — they’re done. There’s nothing.”
‘Perfectly Physically Well,’ but Young Woman Now Dead
McDonald told of a 31-year-old woman he treated for years for severe depression who was recently in remission and taking graduate classes to become a therapist.
But when her college shut down due to the pandemic and her boyfriend broke up with her, she retreated to her home alone and faced weeks with no support. She’d had a history of opioid abuse she’d kicked for several years, but recently relapsed and took fentanyl.
“Fentanyl is an opiate that’s hundreds or thousands of times more potent than prescription opiates like oxycontin or oxycodone,” McDonald explained. “She was found unresponsive by paramedics. At 31 years old, perfectly physically well – dead.”
The psychiatrist stated, “I am certain that the cause of her death was due to a withdrawal of support in the community and the withdrawal of her ability to be in school and her inability to handle the added stress.”
McDonald also spoke of a suicide hotline in Los Angeles reporting in early April an increase from February to March of 20 calls to 1,800.
While World Cries for a Vaccine, Vaccinations Are Falling
Gold brought up another area of concern, saying, “It’s very important that children are not getting vaccinated. We keep talking about a coronavirus vaccine. Why are we not concerned that children are falling off their vaccination schedules?”
“Vaccination rates really globally are very, very down,” stated pediatrician Hamilton.
For example, talking about what’s in a recent New York Times article, he shared, “In Michigan, less than half of infants five months or younger are really up to date on their immunizations right now.”
He went on, “Because of the fear of potential infection with COVID, people are not coming to the doctor and they’re forgetting about the maintenance of their vaccines as scheduled.”
15,000 Students ‘Simply Disappeared’
Hamilton also argued that long lockdowns are hurting many children educationally.
He spoke of disturbing numbers brought out in a Los Angeles Times article, saying, “After the L.A. Unified School District went to an online system in mid-March, they were showing that large swaths of their high school students weren’t even checking in. 15,000 of them simply disappeared. They were gone. They had not checked in one time. Another 40,000 of their students – which represents about a third of their student body – really were not in daily contact with their teachers. The quality of their education is in fact really lagging.”
Doctor Argues Keeping Schools Shut ‘Just Makes No Scientific Sense Whatever’
Barke weighed in on this issue of keeping schools closed, saying of those killed by the coronavirus, “The number of deaths younger than 40 are very, very tiny. And if you look at the number of deaths less than (age) 40 compared to almost anything else – whether it be traffic accidents or other forms of death – compared to COVID-19, it’s just ridiculously low for COVID-19. So this idea that somehow we have to wait for a vaccination or a cure for this virus in order to open up schools just makes no scientific sense whatever.”
Some on the other side of these pandemic-related issues warn throwing the schools open and purposely exposing people to the virus to get herd immunity are dangerous.
Barke does admit the idea of herd immunity being foolproof isn’t 100 percent guaranteed. “But we have examples of past respiratory viral infections where we’ve been able to reach a level of herd immunity to protect the most vulnerable.”
“For every child and for every young adult that is locked indoors and is not allowed to be exposed to the virus where they overwhelmingly do well, especially if you’re younger than the age of 40 or even 50, that’s one person less to achieve that level of herd immunity,” Barke argued.
He concluded, “Even if we don’t get up to the recommended 60 or 70 or 80 percent of immunity within the population, even if we only reach 30 or 40 percent, that’s 30 or 40 percent of Americans that are exposed, that are immune, and are no longer able to spread the virus. And are able in some regard to protect the most vulnerable because there’s less of a medium to spread it to them.”
‘A Very Big Disconnect’
At the website of this new grassroots group of doctors — adoctoraday.com — a different medical professional will share every day about the medical harms they’ve seen in their real-world practice caused by a continued shutdown of the nation.
Gold said of all these harms, “That is also part of the COVID-19 story, and we are very concerned that decision-makers are not hearing that.”
“I found that this is not something that’s widely reported in the media at all,” Gold said, concluding, “I feel there’s a very big disconnect between what the average American thinks is going on and what’s actually going on.”
Gold shared one case of inadvertent harm caused by the way Americans have been denied so many services they’ve been accustomed to. She spoke of a middle-aged woman who tired of not being able to get her hair dyed like she usually did.
“She was dying her hair at home because her hairdresser was not available,” Gold explained. “And that’s an awkward thing to do, and she turned and she fell and she broke her hip and she broke her shoulder. And that’s how I met her: in the emergency department with both of these fractures, and she needed surgery. And I have thousands and thousands of these stories.”