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.

Photo courtesy of Yoplait
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When Benny Mendez asked his middle school P.E. students why they wanted to participate in STOKED—his new after school program where kids can learn to skateboard, snowboard, and surf—their answers surprised him.

I want to be able to finally see the beach, students wrote. I want to finally be able to see the snow.

Never having seen snow is understandable for Mendez's students, most who live in Inglewood, CA, just outside of Los Angeles. But never having been to the beach is surprising, since most of them only live 15-20 minutes from the ocean. Mendez discovered many of them don't even know how to swim.

"A lot of the kids shared that they just want to go on adventures," says Mendez. "They love nature, but...they just see it in pictures. They want to be out there."

Mendez is in his third year of teaching physical education at View Park K-8 school, one of seven Inner City Foundation Education schools in the Los Angeles area. While many of his students are athletically gifted, Mendez says, they often face challenges outside of school that limit their opportunities. Some of them live in neighborhoods where it's unsafe to leave their houses at certain times of day due to gang activity, and many students come to his P.E. class with no understanding of why learning about physical health is important.

"There's a lot going on at home [with my students]," says Mendez. "They're coming from either a single parent home, or foster care. There's a lot of trauma behind what's going on at home...that is out of our control."

Photo courtesy of Yoplait

What Mendez can control is what he gives his students when they're in his care, which is understanding, some structure, and the chance to try new things. Mendez wakes up at 4:00 a.m. most days and often doesn't get home until 9:00 p.m. as he works tirelessly to help kids thrive. Not only does he run after school programs, but he coaches youth soccer on the weekends as well. He also works closely with other teachers and guidance counselors at the school to build strong relationships with students, and even serves as a mentor to his former students who are now in high school.

Now Mendez is earning accolades far and wide for his efforts both in and out of the classroom, including a surprise award from Yoplait and Box Tops for Education.

Yoplait and Box Tops are partnering this school year to help students reach their fullest potential, which includes celebrating teachers and programs that support that mission. Yoplait is committed to providing experiences for kids and families to connect through play, so teaming up with Box Tops provided an opportunity to support programs like STOKED.

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William Shatner on Blue Origin's second space mission.

Once fictional space captain, now real-life astronaut William Shatner was moved to tears after his 11-minute journey beyond Earth's atmosphere.

As he landed back on the desert grounds of Texas, Captain Kirk himself remarked on the profound experience. His speech is so heartfelt and full of poignant reflections on life, it felt like another episode of "Star Trek."


"It was unbelievable. I mean you know the little things. To see the blue color and then this black. That's the thing—the covering of blue," said Shatner. "This sheet, this blanket, this comforter of blue. We think, 'Oh, it's blue sky.' And then suddenly you shoot through it all of a sudden like you whip off a sheet, and you're looking into blackness. Into black ugliness."

Getting emotional, he continued, "you look down, and there's the blue down there, and the black up there ... there is mother Earth, and just comfort, and there is just—is that death? Is that the way death is? It was so moving to me. This experience has been something unbelievable."

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!