Source: Physician Outlook By Craig M. Wax, D.O.
2020 was “the year of the political pandemic.” If COVID-19 coronavirus wasn’t a bad enough worldwide pandemic, it ignited a political pandemic that absolutely destroyed our response to COVID-19, all our defenses, our civil rights, and our livelihoods, putting our very country’s existence at risk. How could this happen?
The Democrats blame the president for the “wishy washy” academic approach of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Don’t wear a mask. Wear an N95 mask. Wear any mask. No real research to support masks for well people, but only a century of medical surgical dogma. The Republicans blame the state governors for citizen lockdowns and mandating COVID19 infected patients be sent across their states to nursing homes and long-term care facilities, against CDC guidelines and facility objections. Both policies resulted in needless deaths and citizen loss of rights, freedom and liberty.
The media presented a very biased and political view, depending on which you were tuned into. MSNBC, CNN, and ABC/NBC/CBS network media suggested that the president’s rallies were responsible for the spread of the virus. Fox News and Conservative Media suggested that “black lives matter,” and the accompanying destruction of property, violence, and looting was a far bigger problem for the spread of the virus.
Perhaps worst of all, potential treatments and preventative strategies were politicized, and even “outlawed,“ in many states.
Since 2005 with the SARS virus, Dr. Fauci and our government published that Chloroquine(CQ)/hydroxychloroquine(HCQ) are effective “as a treatment and an immunization.’’ Since COVID-19 coronavirus is closely related to SARS, it would make sense and logically follow that it should be tried if the patient and physician are comfortable. But, as luck would have it, on physician urging (mine included) our president spoke positively of hydroxychloroquine and the political games began.
Various Democratic governors banned the use of HCQ without a positive test, reportedly to prevent shortages of the drug for other uses. Nasal swab testing was not an accurate way to determine positivity if the patient was recently infected. This prevented the treatment from being most effective. Never before had governors made executive orders that restricted physician practice and patient options for treatment.
Rushed research began at multiple institutions but most seemed like a set up for planned failure. Some was conducted in comorbid dying patients at the VA. Other studies didn’t include zinc, and still others, like The Lancet, couldn’t produce the data. Making matters worse, the media played up a story of a man ingesting fish tank cleaner which contained CQ potentially and distantly, “on the reported advice of the president,” which was not the case.
Congress was as polarized as ever. Conservative and Republican thought leaders tended to minimize the spread and effects of the virus, while liberal and Democrat thought leaders tended to magnify the spread and effects of the virus. Politically speaking, it was in the best interest of Republicans to minimize fear and damage estimates so as not to harm the president’s reelection campaign. Democrats, and most of the media tended to maximize fear and damage estimates so as to potentially harm the president’s reelection campaign. Unfortunately, this left most people in a “lockdown panic syndrome,“ feeling either polarized and apoplectic, or utterly bewildered, not knowing what to believe.
There was even a wide split of physicians on the topic as well. Academic physicians, administrators and government “experts” favored “shut down,“ and avoidance of the virus by all parties for indefinite time. Schools and “nonessential“ work places would be closed and schooling and business was to be done over the Internet. It was initially for two weeks, “to flatten the curve,“ but has been more than four months thus far with an unstated and unclear endpoint. They also called for masking and distancing everyone, whether sick or well, by governor’s’ executive orders as if they were law.
Independent private practice physicians tended to favor “open,“ policies where healthy youth at low risk would be exposed to gain herd immunity, while only the sick or elderly at high risk would be masked or distanced. Schools would be open, and work places would be open and operating at the owner’s discretion.
The politicization and utter ruination of physician autonomy, patient freedom of choice, and the scientific method is unacceptable and is costly in both lives and livelihoods. No matter which view you favor, all views must be available, entertained, and given due consideration. There is certainly more than ample room for all fights, brainstorming, trials, and patient unique choices.
Physicians in the United States and all over the world should be vocal and take action to not only limit the extent of this damage caused by politicians and media, but prevent future outbreaks of a political pandemic. Politicians and people resort to personal attacks when they are out of ammunition and good ideas. Stick to your guns. Freedom of speech where all ideas are heard and debated is the best concept to find and act on the best ideas.