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A critical look at the Dr. Erickson Bakersfield COVID-19 video

This video from California Dr. Erickson has gone viral, and is being held up by everyone wishing to argue that the approach the US took to the virus was wrong. I suspected a lot of confirmation bias, and decided to go through the video and take notes.

Within the first five minutes, I already noted four claims that were either misleading, or flat-out wrong—enough to disqualify the source, and any further time spent watching it.

  • He starts off by saying “Our approach has been to look at this by the science”, as if nobody else is doing that. No medical problem in history has received more focused global attention than COVID-19. And since extremely few people are actually qualified to have an opinion on COVID-19 scientifically, then understanding the consensus view is really important.
  • He claims the initial shut down of travel from China, and other early measures, were “good things to do, when you don’t have facts.” That’s simply wrong. We had a LOT of facts. We had observations of the outbreaks in Wuhan, Iran and possibly Italy. We already had a fairly accurate understanding of its contagiousness (R0), to know that this is an exponential growth outbreak. Also, stopping travel has long been known to be important tactic in response to an infectious disease outbreak. These measures are by no means just “stuff you do when you’re blind”.
  • “We quarantine the sick, but we’ve never seen a situation where you quarantine the healthy.” This is so misleading. We didn’t “quarantine the healthy”; we imposed social distancing by mandate, rather than trust voluntary behavior. And the reason that decision was taken, was to ensure the spread was successfully slowed, rather than risk a nationwide repeat of Iran, Italy, Spain & NYC.
  • He claims initial models were “wrong”, because they predicted millions of deaths, “As we’ve seen, that didn’t materialize.” OMG. Duh!? Anyone who listened to Dr Birx reporting the first model predictions will recall, “2M dead if we do nothing. 100k if we take these measures.” The 2M figure was IF WE DO NOTHING! And taking the measures we took resulted in (so far) 60k deaths. Knowing how sensitive models of exponential growth are to input parameters and real-time changing dynamics, the models were pretty good!

With that, I’d had enough. This is a misleading video, but one that will unfortunately be judged by many though confirmation bias. Doing a bit of Googling, I’ve seen that others more qualified than me have condemned the video as well.

Published inSociety

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