Updated: Oct 18, 2020
Last May, I wrote a letter to the Daily Local News proposing three potential reasons for challenging our government-imposed restrictions on our inherent freedoms: the shutdown no longer being warranted, the unintended consequences being worse than the potential benefits, and the lockdown being applied unfairly.
Today, all three exist. The basis for which the restrictions were imposed - “flattening the curve” so hospitals would not be overwhelmed - has been accomplished. Our hospitals have laid off medical personnel and unused ventilators have been put in storage. The state and local government’s response has been to move the goalposts with restrictions now based on the number of new cases.
The unintended consequences are staggering. A recent study concluded that 130 million more people worldwide will face starvation due to the supply chain disruptions resulting from lockdowns. As Time magazine explains, that is exponentially more people than will die from the virus itself. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates more than 93,000 non-Covid “excess deaths” will occur in the US this year due to these impositions. People have been canceling medical procedures and not seeking medical treatment due to excessive fear of the virus. The Census Bureau reports that in one month alone over 70 million adults did not get the medical care they needed.
Likewise, mental health is deteriorating. The CDC stated “40% of American adults have reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse” during the pandemic. Deaths from these causes are called “deaths of despair.” Child and domestic abuse cases are increasing with one study showing a higher rate of more severe injuries, suggesting victims delayed seeking help. In one month childhood vaccinations dropped by 60%. US divorce rates have skyrocketed with many couples admitting the lockdowns caused irreparable damage to their relationships. Children are suffering psychologically through enforced isolation, while falling further behind in their education.
Data reveals that 60% of business closures due to the pandemic are now permanent. More than a third of all Americans have experienced a loss of income since the shutdown began. Understandably, many are worried about paying next month’s rent or mortgage.
Finally, the examples of unfair application of the restrictions are countless. While not the most serious, certainly the most egregious is West Chester’s Mayor and State Representative candidate Dianne Herrin holding a fundraiser after issuing an Emergency Declaration that would have placed any resident in violation for doing the same thing in their own backyard. After getting caught, she revised the restrictions. I suspect the revisions came from the CCDC (Chester County Democratic Committee), not the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).
Governor Wolf has updated his restrictions which are discussed in a 14-page FAQ. This is the “Green Phase?” All of this is taking place while the evidence continues to build that these actions are causing more harm than help. The Great Barrington Declaration, signed by over 16,000 doctors and scientists, myself included, and more than 150,000 people concludes that these restrictions are not only unnecessary but, as I’ve noted above, have a devastating impact on society. Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, says “there is more harm from the lockdown than there is from COVID.”
If the original justification for the curtailing of our freedoms, keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed and vital medical supplies from being depleted, no longer exists, what is the basis for the ongoing restrictions when their unintended harms are so great? The burden of proof is not on those favoring a relaxation on the limitations, but on those who want to preserve them.
We are experiencing the collapse of government legitimacy before our eyes. It is time to elect people who will represent all of us - representatives who will seek to minimize the coronavirus deaths among the most vulnerable and the unnecessary suffering that has been inflicted upon everyone else.
Gordon R. Eck, D.O.
The following question was posed on Facebook in response to this post.
"So the RCCC Chairman is in favor of “herd immunity”? So exactly how many deaths are acceptable to Dr Eck?" -Catherine
I appreciate these questions about my support of herd immunity and acceptable deaths. This is an argument frequently offered so it is worth taking the time to respond. The answer to the first question is quite simple, the second is more nuanced.
Yes, I fully support herd immunity. I am not aware of anyone in the medical profession who does not. Herd immunity is achieved when a large segment of the population is immune to a particular disease. Although not everyone is immune, those high-risk people who are not, are protected by those around them who are. The disease cannot reach the susceptible and disappears.
This principle can be illustrated in nature. While there are many examples, as a Republican, I shall reference the elephant. The young and elderly are typically more vulnerable than healthy adults; they can't run as fast, and don’t have the strength to fight off predators. The solution is for the healthy members of the community to form a protective circle around those that are vulnerable. As a result, the herd protects the weak from the predators that would seek to do them harm. So too, when a large enough segment of our population is immune, those within that population who are susceptible, are protected by the surrounding herd.
There are two ways to achieve herd immunity. One is to develop it naturally. This happens when a person is exposed to a virus and makes antibodies to fight off the infection. Your body will defend itself from future infections by this virus. The second way is through vaccinations. Vaccines cause your body to make the same protective antibodies to fight off the virus.
Right now, as we await the development of a vaccine, we are dependent on the first means to achieve immunity. How long this might take is uncertain as many factors impact this, including the Basic Reproduction Number (R0), which is an estimate of how transmissible the virus is.
President Trump unleashed the private sector at the onset of the pandemic. This foresight will benefit us all as it looks like we will have a vaccine in record time, perhaps as early as next month. Still, questions remain. How effective will it be? What adverse effects might it have? How many people will choose to get the vaccination?
So what is the best course of action now? While I disagree, I respect those who insist we must remain in lockdown mode until a safe and effective vaccine is available and enough of our population has received it to achieve herd immunity. Without repeating here what I stated in my prior post, the empirical evidence shows that our current approach is causing unnecessary deaths. My question to Catherine is “How many of these deaths are acceptable to you?”
I believe there is a better way. It isn’t an “either/or” solution. Let’s continue to aggressively work toward the development of a vaccine. At the same time, having learned so much about the virus over the last six months, we should replace the blunt and arbitrary restrictions on everyone, with targeted interventions that benefit the vulnerable without causing undue harm to those who are not at high risk. As one example, nursing homes account for 0.6% of the population but 45% of the Covid fatalities. Doesn’t it make more sense to work to better isolate and care for these individuals without adversely impacting the lives of everyone else?
Governor Wolf and our Democrat Representatives in Chester County continue to insist on broad restrictions on all our residents, despite the science indicating it is unnecessary and harmful. I do not question their motives. But I do question their judgment. For this reason alone, they should be replaced.
Gordon R. Eck, D.O.