Medical associations 'jointly and emphatically condemn' statements from Bakersfield doctors on lockdown

Two doctors who run an urgent care clinic in Bakersfield, California have made a viral sensation of themselves by going against the recommendations of experts in epidemiology and advocating for the immediate reopening of the country.

In a video that's been shared widely across social media, Drs. Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi claim that, based on their testing numbers at their five clinics in Bakersfield, COVID-19 has a comparable infection and death rate as the seasonal flu. Therefore, they say, lockdowns aren't warranted and should end immediately.


One look at New York or New Jersey's hospitals in recent weeks, or a cursory peek at the stats showing that COVID-19 has killed more Americans than the average flu season just this month alone (54,000 deaths in April so far—flu kills an estimated 12,000 to 61,000 in the U.S. annually), really ought to be enough for people to view these "no worse than the flu" claims with skepticism. But Americans who are struggling with being unable to work or are just tired of staying home have glommed onto these doctors' claims as gospel truth and used them as proof that the response to the pandemic has been overblown.

This seems like a good time to remind people that a dissenting voice should not automatically be convincing just because it says what you want to hear. Not when that voice is weighed against thousands upon thousands of other professional voices—including the vast majority of infectious disease experts who have made this their life's work—who say something different. Not when statisticians and epidemiologists point out the flaws in these doctors' methodology and erroneous conclusions. And not when the professional organizations in these doctors' own field call them out for misinformation.

In a joint statement, the nation's two largest emergency medicine associations have roundly condemned Drs. Erickon and Massihi's "reckless and untested musings":

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) jointly and emphatically condemn the recent opinions released by Dr. Daniel Erickson and Dr. Artin Massihi. These reckless and untested musings do not speak for medical societies and are inconsistent with current science and epidemiology regarding COVID-19. As owners of local urgent care clinics, it appears these two individuals are releasing biased, non-peer reviewed data to advance their personal financial interests without regard for the public's health.

COVID-19 misinformation is widespread and dangerous. Members of ACEP and AAEM are first-hand witnesses to the human toll that COVID-19 is taking on our communities. ACEP and AAEM strongly advise against using any statements of Drs. Erickson and Massihi as a basis for policy and decision making.

You can choose what professional medical associations made up of tens of thousands of physicians say, or you can believe two random doctors from Bakersfield. (Or any of a handful of dissenting voices on the internet—do not @ me with your YouTube "research," please.) Or you could recognize that in the modern scientific era, a majority consensus in specific areas of expertise is where you should place your bets.

We aren't living in the time of Galileo, where a lone scientific voice tried to break through and was punished for it. Science has evolved, as has the methodology for determining what's legitimate and what's not. We live in a time where lone dissenters in science are either 1) innovative pioneers whose work is checked, verified, and added to the body of knowledge, or 2) quacks or hacks whose work is debunked or discredited for not being scientifically sound.

But let's say you're convinced these doctors are onto something with their data. They do sound quite scientific and doctory, after all, and you've heard that a few other (notably preliminary, non-peer-reviewed) studies have come to similar conclusions.

Carl Bergstrom, a professor of biology at University of Washington, explained in a detailed Twitter thread why the data extrapolation from the two doctors doesn't make sense.

Bergstrom wrote:

"Unfortunately the misleading claims of those two doctors in Bakersfield keep making the rounds, so I want to very briefly address the problem with what they are saying. I won't get into their possible motives, past political activity, etc.

What they did was simple: they looked at the fraction of patients who tested positive for #COVID19 at the clinics they own. They found 340 out of 5213 tests were positive, about 6.6% Then they assume the same fraction of the whole population are infected.

From there, they scale up to the state level and claim 12% incidence statewide. The news story says it is using the same calculation, but it can't be—how did they get from 6.6% to 12%? Perhaps they estimating infected *ever* versus infected *currently*. It's not clear.

Using that 12% infected figure, and a known 1400 deaths in California, they assume 1400 out of 4.7 million have died. That gives them an infection fatality rate of 0.03%. That is, they think that if 10,000 are infected, 3 will die on average.

The problem with this approach is that during a pandemic, the people who come into an urgent care clinic are not a random sample of the population. A large fraction of them are coming in precisely because they suspect that they have the disease. This generates sampling bias.

Estimating that fraction infected from patients at an urgent care facility is a bit like estimating the average height of Americans from the players on an NBA court. It's not a random sample, and it gives a highly biased estimate.

Moreover the estimate does not pass even a basic plausibility check.

In New York City, 12,067 people are known to have died from the virus, out of a population of 8.4 million.

This is a rate of 0.14% of all people. Not just infected people. All people. That gives us a lower bound on the death rate in New York. Not an estimate, a lower bound.

The death rate for infected people is obviously higher than 0.14%, because not everyone in New York has been infected. And yet that 0.14% lower bound is nearly *five times as high* as the 0.03% that the Bakersfield duo are claiming. They've used absurd methodology to arrive at an implausible number.

If the pandemic were not so severely politicized, this would be a non-issue from the start."

The comparisons to the flu really need to stop. No flu season has had 54,000 confirmed cases in a month. No flu season has resulted in refrigerator trucks being backed into loading docks at hospitals to have a place to put the deceased.

When people say, "We don't shut down the country for the flu," well, yeah. Exactly. Because this isn't the flu. Even if COVID-19 did have a similar infection and mortality rate as the flu, we don't have a vaccine and we don't have a proven treatment for this virus.

And the vast majority of people who study infectious disease and pandemics full-time have come to the same conclusions—not just in the U.S., but worldwide. That's why the vast majority of countries around the world have gone on lockdowns. And those that did so early and began testing and contact tracing early have managed to contain their outbreaks. Even here at home, with the far higher death count than anywhere else in the world, we've managed to start flattening the curve with our mitigation lockdown measures.

Obviously, no one thinks we can stay as stringently locked down as we've been until we get a vaccine. We do need to get the economy moving again—but when it's safer to do so than now. We haven't even had a drop off in cases and deaths yet as a nation. Many states are opening up weeks too early, according to the best modeling available. Literally just weeks, but weeks in a pandemic can make or break an outbreak.

There's much that we're still figuring out about this virus, but that doesn't mean we don't know anything. Years of planning and simulations and studying outbreaks and disease around the world have led to the responses we've seen around the world. It's not for "the average flu." It's not some nefarious plot to steal people's freedom. It's an attempt to save as many lives as we can from a disease we can't control and can't treat.

We've made economic sacrifices to do so, absolutely. And if we open up too early, we'll just have to do it all over again, and the sacrifices we've made so far will be for naught.

That's the resounding message from infectious disease experts around the world, no matter what two random doctors in Bakersfield say.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less
via The BC Cancer Foundation

Testicular cancer typically affects men between the ages of 16 and 44 and is the most common solid tumor to occur in men of this age group. These tumors grow rapidly and can double in size in just 10 to 30 days.

The disease is potentially fatal if not discovered early and accounts for about 11%-13% of all cancer deaths of men between the ages of 15-35. An estimated 9,60 people were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2020, resulting in around 440 deaths.

So it's incredibly important for people with testicles to check themselves regularly.

Keep Reading Show less
True

2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.