He said the three little words that have become obsolete in public health in the past 2 years: “I was wrong.”
Dr. Joseph Fraiman criticized COVID-19 mitigation efforts and said society has to question if we want a public policy that is “obviously producing large harm and offering only a minimal benefit at best.” In a Zoom session with other doctors, Fraiman apologized for criticizing proponents of the Great Barrington Declaration and said he hopes other doctors realize they made a mistake. Dr. Joseph Fraiman is an Emergency Medicine Physician based in Louisiana.
“These policies were harmful. Initially, I was – I don’t want to say I was ignorant but it was irrelevant because there were lives on the line, I’m an emergency doctor. There were lives on the line. No, we have to do it. But if the policies didn’t make a big difference and they only caused harm then you have to start rethinking what we’re doing,” Fraiman said.
“You take the data that is clearly in front of us and if it is only causing harm and at best can only save a few we need to think about it. At best, an aggressive lockdown policy, imagine it reduced hospitalizations and death by 20%. 20% of deaths and hospitalizations were reduced. If that were the case, then maybe we could come here and debate. Is the harm caused by those lockdowns worth that benefit? And how do we negotiate that benefit through navigating through our freedoms?” Fraiman asked. RealClearPolitics
“The reality is hospitalizations and deaths were not reduced by 20% by any policies,” Fraiman said. “Because if they were we would have had studies at this point that would have consistently identified that. And that just has not occurred at all. So, I think as a society we have to decide if we want to continue a public policy that’s obviously producing large harm and offering only a minimal benefit at best. It’s currently unmeasurable.”
“Also, personally, I would like to apologize to the three other scientists sitting with me here on Zoom, the proponents of the [Great] Barrington Declaration,” Fraiman said. “Initially, I did think y’all were crazy, or dumb, or maybe you just didn’t understand what I was seeing. But I now realize — I’m sorry because I believe now you guys were correct. And you were correct from the beginning and I wish that more people, including myself, have realized that sooner. And I hope more people realize that soon enough.”
Great Barrington Declaration
As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.
The Great Barrington Declaration (signed October 4 2020 and co-signed by many since that date) – As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.
Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.
Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.
Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.
As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.
The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.
Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals.
Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.