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Dr. Duane Rommel

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an overdue guest editorial by pediatrician Dr. Duane Rommel:

“In a lecture at Cornell University in 1964, physicist Richard Feynman defined the scientific method:  First, you GUESS.  Then you determine the consequences of your guess.  Then you compare those consequences with outcome of experiments.  If your guess disagrees with the experiment, it is WRONG.   This is science.” 

    from the book, “How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom”

For the past 9 months, we’ve been making a lot of guesses about Covid 19.  Some of the guesses have been wrong.  Some have been right.  Some vilified, some verified.  Some, we await the verdict.

I hear leaders claim that they are following “science.”  What that really means is that they are listening to certain scientists who happen to agree with their political bias.  The science of Covid 19 is incomplete and complex.  Therefore,  public health policy leaders need to be open to reassess their guesses and policies.

Anthony Fauci was christened by the press to be our ultimate “scientist.” Policy makers had to heed his guesses or be labeled “anti-scientific,” “uneducated,” or a “conspiracy theorist.”   However, our present reality illustrates that scientific policymakers need to re-examine their theory and be open to new ones.  That is how science works.  

Today’s newspaper trumpets “New Virus Cases Surge Across U.S. and America.”  The scientific policies followed by most Western countries are failing.   Many states and European countries hit by the pandemic imposed strict lockdowns this spring.  They launched testing and contact tracing programs to stop the spread of the virus throughout the summer and fall. These policies have failed as these countries and states have tried to ease their lockdowns.   They prove that the virus can’t be controlled that way. Their scientific theories aren’t working.

In October, another group of highly respected scientists gathered to propose a new plan for dealing with the pandemic.  

I strongly recommend everyone read “The Barrington Declaration,” and watch their video titled, “Dissenting Scientists Issue Herd Immunity Declaration” on their website: gbdeclaration.org.  Their Declaration challenges the current guesses about how to defeat the pandemic.

They explain why our current policies are 1.) Poor public health policy 2) Unscientific in their conclusions, and 3) Immoral as general policy.

They present the concept of herd immunity as a scientific fact which applies to the covid pandemic.  We reach herd immunity with every highly contagious illness that exists.   Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results when a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease. Herd immunity is not policy or opinion, but the way infectious diseases are controlled.  It will happen. The only question is how we will get to herd immunity with the least harm to the public.

Their proposal rests on the unchanging scientific fact of Covid: the Infection Mortality Rate.  This undeniable scientific data should be driving public health policy.  The Infection Mortality Rate for Covid 19 is ‘age specific;’ or radically different for different ages.  These scientists insist that leaders in public health must, in their words, ‘exploit this weakness’ of the virus to defeat it and reach herd immunity.  

I’m seeing patients frightened by Covid in my pediatric office.  These young people and their parents equate getting Covid 19 with a death sentence.  In fact, according to the CDC, the chance of dying from Covid, for a person under age 19, is 3 per 100,000.  www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/planning-scenarios.html.   According to the CDC the chance of dying from the influenza last year for that same age person is 1.6 per 100,000.    For those 20 to 49 years old,  the chance of dying from Covid is 2 per 10,000.   The chance of dying from the flu is 2 per 100,000.   It’s not until age 70+ that the mortality rate of Covid 19 increases dramatically to 5 per 100.

This fact, the extremely low mortality rate in young people, which is accepted by all scientists, needs to be driving our policies. Scientific reality states that we will reach herd immunity at some point with Covid.  To clarify: the infection will largely come under control when enough people are immune to it.   Immunity will either be achieved through getting the illness or through a vaccine for the illness.  There is no other way.

The public health question that policy makers, assisted by the scientific data, need to discuss is: “How to achieve herd immunity with the least harm to the public’s health?”   

The Barrington Group recommends: “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.”

I strongly agree with their recommendations.  The second video illustrates their reasoning as to why this is better health policy, better moral policy and more compassionate than our current policy.  

We must stop being overly focused on Covid 19 alone.  That distorts our overall health policies to the point of harming the people we want to protect. 

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