Stanford doctor says coronavirus lockdowns are hurting, not helping

Writing for The Hill, Stanford doctor Scott Atlas revealed that new data has shown the ongoing stay-at-home orders and business closures prompted by the coronavirus outbreak are doing more harm than good at this point — and should be ended now. 

“Leaders must examine accumulated data to see what has actually happened, rather than keep emphasizing hypothetical projections; combine that empirical evidence with fundamental principles of biology established for decades; and then thoughtfully restore the country to function,” Atlas wrote in an op-ed Wednesday.

Atlas called for protecting the elderly, who are at highest risk for death from the coronavirus, citing data that showed death rates far below that of the flu for any other age group; .01% for ages 18 to 45, for example. Younger people with chronic diseases can also isolate due to higher risk for complications if they are infected.

Protecting older people and other vulnerable populations will prevent hospital overcrowding, Atlas said. Fear of overwhelming hospitals was given as the main reason for lockdowns when they were originally begun in a majority of states.

Goal: Herd immunity

Atlas went on to say that the large number of asymptomatic patients is not a reason to keep everyone locked down, but instead, should naturally lead to “herd immunity” if people are allowed to mingle as they normally would.

In the absence of a vaccine, infection is the only way to herd immunity, Atlas said, and it will take time until around 80% of people have been exposed and developed antibodies. Isolation only prolongs that process.

When death rates were thought to be 3% or higher from the virus, herd immunity could have meant hundreds of thousands or even millions of deaths — a fate that it seemed worthwhile to try to avoid. But according to Atlas, current facts have changed the modeling significantly, and have also shown that it is nearly impossible to curb the spread of the virus in the general population even when taking precautions.

Inaccurate analyses and other problems

Since the lockdowns began, health experts have been engaging in what is called single factor analysis — looking only at the impact of the virus on people’s health while ignoring all other factors.

Atlas pointed out that people are not just dying from coronavirus complications, but from a number of other health conditions that have been put on hold by hospitals or by patients themselves who have been afraid to go to the hospital when they fall ill.

“Most states and many hospitals abruptly stopped ‘nonessential’ procedures and surgery,” Atlas wrote. “That prevented diagnoses of life-threatening diseases, like cancer screening, biopsies of tumors now undiscovered, and potentially deadly brain aneurysms. Treatments, including emergency care, for the most serious illnesses were also missed.”

Because death rates for COVID-19 have been so much lower than predicted, it is possible that more people will die from these other untreated illnesses over time than did from the virus. Nevertheless, the data is clear that not getting chemotherapy, brain surgery, or treatment for heart attacks and strokes will lead to deaths if society remains on lockdown now that the surge of coronavirus hospitalizations seems to have passed.

Atlas is part of a growing number of doctors who now say continuing to be in a state of lockdown is not healthy for the population overall and that data shows the virus is not as much of a risk as it seemed to be at first. When will policymakers start listening?

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