During a roundtable discussion hosted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis last week, the panelists — healthcare professionals from Harvard, Stanford and Oxford – discussed, among other things, the negative impacts the media had on the pandemic, saying the media spread fear while silencing opinions that differed from the media’s preferred narrative.
The response of Florida’s “legacy” media was to either not report on the roundtable or to dismiss their professional opinions as “controversial,” “outside the mainstream” or “dangerous.”
For example, FOX4’s coverage of the roundtable discussion included, “The panelists agreed on a few items, including how lockdowns did not work, contact tracing was a failure, and that schools need to open. They also agreed that mask mandates did more harm than good,” but FOX4 did not report on any of the details of what they said.
Instead, they included a long quote from Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone Democrat on the Florida cabinet and a likely gubernatorial opponent to DeSantis, characterizing his roundtable as “elevating dangerous disinformation.”
But what the panel offered was a different perspective from that most often reported.
The panelist were Dr. Sunetra Gupta, epidemiologist and professor of theoretical epidemiology, Oxford University; Dr. Scott W. Atlas, MD, Robert Wesson Senior Fellow in health care policy at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University; Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor of medicine at Stanford University and research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research; and, Dr. Martin Kulldorff, PhD, biostatistician, epidemiologist, and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Atlas was a member of President Donald Trump’s COVID task force where his skepticism on the value of masks and optimistic forecasts on the pandemic reportedly “alarmed mainstream scientists” and garnered disdain from the “mainstream media.”
Beyond saying “lockdowns did not work” and vaccine passports were a “bad idea,” the panelists explained the “why” behind their professional opinions.
The panelists said the practices of lockdowns, preventing children from attending school and requiring “vaccination passports” were creating further division within our society between the haves and the have-nots.
Kulldorff said, “While protecting the professional Zoom class, lockdowns have caused enormous collateral public health damage across all ages, with children, workers and the vulnerable hit the hardest.”
Bhattacharya explained that the poor, blue collar workers and minorities were most likely to catch the virus (and not need the vaccine) and were the most hesitant to get a vaccination against it.
He said, “and then to tell them they have to have the vaccination to participate in American life? It’s gonna be a new vaccine Jim Crow.”
They said the same division is being exacerbated by keeping children out of school, that lockdowns were “robbing children of their birthright” of a good education.
Atlas said,”the brunt of the lockdown harms were felt much worse by the low income children.”
Poor children were much less likely to participate in remote learning, but beyond the educational aspect of school, Gupta said face-to-face instruction provided a “lifeline” to underprivileged children who relied on schools for meals and to those children suffering from child abuse.
She said, “The most heartbreaking element of what’s happened during the pandemic is that children were kept out of school, with the state of Florida being one of the few exceptions. The evidence has been clear that children are not significant vectors of the virus and that school is a safe environment for both children and teachers. As human beings, we have a moral responsibility to keep schools open and to provide children with that atmosphere.”
The panelists also said that the handling of the COVID pandemic did not follow standard public health pandemic management plans.
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s own pandemic influenza implementation plan, they seem to be correct. The goals of the Federal Government response to a pandemic are “limiting mortality and severe morbidity; maintaining critical infrastructure and societal function; diminishing economic impacts; and maintaining national security.”
Atlas said, the lockdowns were a “complete rejection” of long established public health policy and those demanding it showed a “complete lack of fundamental knowledge we’ve had for decades.”
Kulldorff said instead of widespread lock downs, the country should have practiced what he called “ focused protection” which prioritized seniors and those at high risks.
He said, “We will be counting the catastrophic physical and mental health harms for many decades.” He pointed out cancer was down 78 percent last year, not because there’s no cancer, but because people didn’t get screened.
Atlas said, “Florida stands as one of the very few states where the governor understood the data about the virus and used common sense in making policy. Opening in-person schools and eliminating unscientific restrictions and mandates while protecting the elderly saved lives and kept Floridians from suffering the severe harms of lockdowns that other states imposed on their citizens.”
Bhattacharya said the lockdowns failed to protect the vulnerable and led to many unnecessary deaths, directly and indirectly. We should not have had lockdowns but concentrated on protecting those who were vulnerable.
He said, “The lockdowns were the single biggest mistake in history.”