The methods of how governments have handled the coronavirus pandemic, and decisions to shut down the economy, will be studied for years to come. There have mostly been two trains of thought: Every non-essential business must close and everyone must quarantine or open up everything. Sadly, nuance seems to be missing from the discussion. Very few are considering an amalgamation of contrasting solutions to slow the spread of COVID-19 and, at the same time, not force the economy to collapse. One voice for a balanced approach to the physical and economic health of people is Dr. David Katz, a doctor and former clinical instructor at the Yale School of Medicine.
Dr. Katz first made waves on March 20 with an op-ed in the New York Times titled "Is Our Fight Against Coronavirus Worse Than the Disease?" Katz pointed out that building immunity to the coronavirus is critical for bodies to fight off the infection.
Katz noted that the "deaths have been mainly clustered among the elderly, those with significant chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, and those in both groups."
He feared that "our efforts will do little to contain the virus because we have a resource-constrained, fragmented, perennially underfunded public health system." Katz, who is the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Connecticut, added that quarantining everyone at home "increases mingling across generations that will expose the most vulnerable."
Katz suggested that governments focus "resources on testing and protecting, in every way possible, all those people the data indicate are especially vulnerable to severe infection: the elderly, people with chronic diseases and the immunologically compromised."
Katz wrote that "protecting the truly vulnerable" was critical, but at the same time, returning to a somewhat normal way of life "could develop natural herd immunity to the virus." Herd immunity is when the population collectively builds an immunity to an infectious disease by being infected, recovering, and developing antibodies, which eventually slows the spread.
"This focus on a much smaller portion of the population would allow most of society to return to life as usual and perhaps prevent vast segments of the economy from collapsing," Katz wrote.
Katz proposed that healthy children, least affected by COVID-19, return to school, which would allow their parents go back to their jobs.
On Sunday, Katz appeared on Fox News' "Life, Liberty & Levin" to elaborate on his ideas to combat the novel coronavirus.
"That's what will happen if you lock everybody away from everybody else and kind of wait until things get better and then let everybody out into the world," Katz told host Mark Levin. "The virus is still out there. We don't have antibodies. We'll just get it later."
"If all you do is flatten the curve, you don't prevent deaths or severe cases. You just change the dates. We don't want to do that," Katz said.
Katz suggested that we don't need to test all 330 million Americans, but rather representative random sampling from communities all across the country could provide enough data to assign risks.
"The numbers of us that need to have antibodies vary with the properties of a given contagion," he added. "And we're learning what the properties of this particular contagion are. That also needs to come from data."
Katz said that a coronavirus vaccine is likely 18 months or two years away or "it could much longer."
"The only way to get back to the world as we knew it is to develop herd immunity," Katz said. "Those of us with low-risk for severe infection actually need to get this thing, and get over it, and develop antibodies."
"Because if I have antibodies, I can't get it, I can't give it to you," Katz told Levin. "So it doesn't matter whether you're vulnerable; you and I shake hands, you don't get it from me."
"When enough of us have made antibodies at the population level, there are enough dead-ends that the virus just can't get through the population. It finds it harder to get to a host where it can survive and it dies out," Dr. Katz said of COVID-19 pathogens. "That's herd immunity."
Dr David Katz Makes The Case For Herd Immunity Against Covid-19 Rather Than Continuous Lockdown www.youtube.com
On Friday, Dr. Katz appeared on "Real Time with Bill Maher" to discuss his potential solutions to the pandemic and how the country should handle the coronavirus recovery. Katz said that he doesn't agree with Sweden's model of opening up everything, but he also doesn't think that closing everything was the right answer either.
Katz, who volunteered his medical services to an emergency department in the Bronx, pointed out that there was "more than one way for this situation to hurt people or even kill them" and "there's more than one way to protect people and save them."
Katz talked about recent antibody tests, specifically the study that found 21 percent of people in New York City had antibodies, and how coronavirus infections could be much higher than what is being reported, thus the mortality rate is lower. "We're starting to see that the mortality toll of this, when you get the denominator, is really small," Katz said.
"We don't want to destroy people's lives and livelihoods and means of feeding their families," Katz told Bill Maher.
Dr. Katz said he debated going on Fox News, and speculated that there might be a "real opportunity for a real 'a-ha' American moment between the extremes of left and right."
"The left side of the spectrum, the liberal ideology, that seems to be so resistant to talking at all on unemployment and the economy, but that's the very same camp that tends to appreciate that the single-leading driver of bad health outcomes is poverty," Katz said. "Social determinants of health are massively important. So frankly, 30 million people unemployed, that falls disproportionately hard on the people who can least bear the unemployment, who are at most risk of food insecurity, who are at most risk of depression and addiction."
Maher responded to the COVID-19 strategy presented by Katz, "Yeah, I think you make a lot of sense there. And I think it's a shame—you talk about politicization, that people like you who sound reasonable, maybe it's not the exact one true opinion you hear somewhere else, has to go on Fox News."
Dr. David Katz | Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO) youtu.be