Doctors’ viral video rebuked by health officials; YouTube removes it

By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Two national physicians groups on Tuesday issued a joint statement to rebuke a now-viral video from a pair of California urgent care clinic doctors who called for an end to the state’s stay home orders.

“The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) jointly and emphatically condemn the recent opinions released by Dr. Daniel Erickson and Dr. Artin Massihi. These reckless and untested musings do not speak for medical societies and are inconsistent with current science and epidemiology regarding COVID-19,” the statement said.

“As owners of local urgent care clinics, it appears these two individuals are releasing biased, non-peer reviewed data to advance their personal financial interests without regard for the public’s health.”

KERO, our ABC partner in Bakersfield, initially aired Erickson and Massihi’s press conference April 22nd and it quickly went viral, garnering more than 5 million views on YouTube.

It’s also been shared millions of times on social media by those who agree stay home orders should be lifted in other states. It’s been referenced by Tucker Carlson on Fox News and Tesla creator Elon Musk tweeted out the video saying the doctors brought up some good points.

In the video, Erickson and Massihi state that healthy people don’t need to shelter-in-place anymore based on data they extrapolated from Kern County’s COVID-19 testing.

“Now that we have the facts,” Erickson said in the briefing. “It’s time to get back to work.”

Erickson said he believes businesses could reopen and as testing continues, people could starting going back to work.

KERO’s Bayan Wang also reported he said staying at home too long could be even worse for people’s health.

“We understand microbiology, we understand immunology and we want strong immune systems,” Erickson said. “I don’t want to stay in my home and develop a weak immune system and then come out and get a disease.”

Kern County, located between Los Angeles and Fresno, has about 900,000 residents. As of Wednesday morning it had reported 847 cases of COVID-19 and five deaths; 53% of the cases in the county have recovered.

The Kern County Health Department quickly responded to the doctors’ comments saying they “do not concur” adding the department “takes very seriously the governor’s guidance, the guidance from the California Department of Public Health and the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.”

“We want to reiterate, now is the time to remain very vigilant and stay at home and practice social distancing,” said Michelle Corson, a spokeswoman with the Kern County Health Department.

YouTube removed the video saying it violated community guidelines and amounted to “misinformation.”

“We quickly remove flagged content that violate our Community Guidelines, including content that explicitly disputes the efficacy of local healthy authority recommended guidance on social distancing that may lead others to act against that guidance,” YouTube said in a statement obtained by Central Oregon Daily News. “However, content that provides sufficient educational, documentary, scientific or artistic (EDSA) context is allowed — for example, news coverage of this interview with additional context. From the very beginning of the pandemic, we’ve had clear policies against COVID-19 misinformation and are committed to continue providing timely and helpful information at this critical time.”

The ACEP and AAEM concluded their joint statement saying “COVID-19 misinformation is widespread and dangerous.”

“Members of ACEP and AAEM are first-hand witnesses to the human toll that COVID-19 is taking on our communities,” the statement said. “ACEP and AAEM strongly advise against using any statements of Drs. Erickson and Massihi as a basis for policy and decision making.”

Massihi issued a statement Wednesday morning on his personal Facebok page.

Carl Bergstrom, a University of Washington biologist who specializes in infectious disease modeling, also roundly debunked the doctors’ statements with a long thread on twitter.

In Oregon, 2,446 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 101 people have died as of April 29th.

While the doctors’ views aren’t shared by health professionals, they are shared by millions of Americans and thousands of Central Oregonians who demand counties and states reopen their economies.

Two weeks ago about 150 people rallied together at the steps of Redmond City Hall calling for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to lift the stay home order, at least for rural counties across the state.

A second rally a week later saw fewer protestors but Phil Henderson, a Deschutes County Commissioner, was among them, wondering aloud whether the whole thing was being blown out of proportion.

He told the crowd, “I do think the way we’ve done it in Oregon has been overly aggressive.”

“I do take seriously this Coronavirus issue and as it’s developed in our nation,” he said. “I don’t know how seriously we should all take it. It’s really hard to know. We’ve seen some places where it’s gone crazy.”

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