“He really does seem blind to the harms of the lockdown”

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wears a protective mask during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on November 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. The White House held its first Coronavirus Task Force briefing in months as cases of COVID-19 are surging across the country ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Source:  Tim Pearce

Health experts behind a petition supporting a targeted public policy approach to the pandemic responded to criticism leveled by Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday.

Two of the doctors behind The Great Barrington Declaration, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford and Dr. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, appeared on the Monday episode of “The Megyn Kelly Show” hosted by independent journalist and commentator Megyn Kelly. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff responded to Fauci’s criticisms of their petition with some of their own, asserting that the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has damaged public faith in medical experts through “erroneous statements” about the pandemic and lockdowns.

Bhattacharya and Kulldorff gained national attention earlier this year after drafting The Great Barrington Declaration, a petition signed by numerous other health experts and policy leaders calling for a targeted approach to combatting the pandemic that avoids the worst economic impacts on strict lockdowns, such as has been pursued by some U.S. governors.

“Dr. Fauci is an esteemed immunologist, but in infectious diseases there are different areas of expertise,” Kulldorff said. “If you want to decide how to deal with a pandemic at the population level, then you need to know about infectious disease outbreaks and how they operate in society and how it spreads from person to person, sort of the population dynamics. And you need to know the infectious-disease epidemiology, and that is something that I have been studying for many decades, but it is not an area of expertise of Dr. Fauci.”

“It is surprising to me that he makes such statements on the epidemiology of the pandemic, which, to be honest, he has made a number of erroneous statements on this aspect. So that reduces the trust in public health again when people hear that and then realize that that was wrong,” Kulldorff added.

Bhattacharya followed up his colleague by answering Fauci’s criticism of their declaration, which Bhattacharya said that Fauci had mischaracterized.

“I think he just doesn’t understand it. I mean he’s characterized it as a strategy of letting [the virus] rip,” Bhattacharya said. “That’s just a complete mischaracterization and in a way it makes me really sad because I do respect him as a leader in immunology, so to hear him mischaracterize these ideas which involve protecting vulnerable people and thinking carefully about the harms of the lockdown and what that implies to write policy. I think is just a great mistake on his part.”

The Stanford epidemiologist then claimed that Fauci, who early in the pandemic had significant influence on the United States’ approach to combatting the virus, is “blind” to the devastating economic and social impacts of the types of policies he has advocated for.

“One thing I’ve noticed in [Fauci’s] thinking is he really does seem to be blind to the harms of the lockdown. I mean we’ve talked about the depression, we’ve talked about the starvation in developing countries as a consequence of the economic damage of the lockdown. We haven’t talked so much, but there is also medical damage from people delaying cancer care because people are more scared of COVID than cancer,” Bhattacharya said. “I mean, I think all of these harms should enter into our policy calculus, and when Dr. Fauci talks, I never hear him thinking about those harms in a way that is meaningful.”