As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to intensify here in Nevada and throughout the U.S., we’re seeing more and more promises of magical “coronavirus cures” coming to our rescue. In what we’re going to have to make into a more regular series, I dig into these claims some more to debunk the rumors and point to the honest science that refutes all this magical thinking.
Once more, with feeling: Don’t take medical advice from Donald Trump.
Ever since President Donald Trump began hyping up the “game changing” magic of hydroxychloroquine, multiple patients with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are experiencing a shortage of their needed prescriptions as some doctors and civilians are stockpiling hydroxychloroquine in hopes that it can treat, cure, and/or prevent COVID-19. Last night, the FDA followed Trump’s lead in issuing emergency authorization of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for COVID-19 treatment in hospitals.
As we discussed last week, there’s limited and mixed evidence at best on hydroxychloroquine’s efficacy for COVID-19 treatment. Trump and his allies have touted French immunologist Didier Raoult’s assertions that 80% of the 80 COVID-19 patients he’s treated with hydroxychloroquine had “favorable outcomes”, but Didier Raoult’s “game changing” experiment has not gone through the proper scientific method (particularly when it comes to peer review of actual data).
In addition, Raoult has a larger shady history of science denial and questionable “research” that should compel us to ask more questions on why Raoult is proclaiming hydroxychloroquine as some “miracle drug”, and why politicians like Trump are echoing his claims, when many more scientists are urging caution, pleading for more actual scientific research, and advising against governments’ rush to rubber-stamp hydroxychloroquine as a “game changing miracle cure”.
As I explained last week, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) had legitimate reasons to issue an emergency regulation to protect hydroxychloroquine access for patients who legitimately need it and prevent bad actors from hoarding (even more of) it for ill-advised purposes. While Sisolak and other states’ governors who’ve taken similar action have suffered some political blowback for taking such action, we’re far better off when policymakers base their actions on medical science rather than political stunts.
Why the rush to “#ReopenAmerica” is reckless and dangerous
Speaking of political stunts, Trump has been touting a fast reopening of shuttered businesses despite scientists’ warnings not to rush to throw Americans deep into harm’s way. While Trump did relent yesterday in extending the federal government’s social distancing guidelines through April 30, he’s continuing to hype up the prospect to “#ReopenAmerica”. I suspect this has far more to do with political science (read: Trump’s poll numbers) than medical science.
According to a new Daily Beast-Ipsos poll, 36% of American voters say that “the cost to slow the spread of COVID-19 is too much for our economy to bear”, 35% say that “the media and Democrats are overstating the COVID-19 threat in order to damage Donald Trump’s presidency”, and 26% say that “getting people back to work is more important than social distancing”. While more American voters disagree than agree with these sentiments, this Daily Beast-Ipsos poll and Data for Progress’ newest survey show disturbingly high amounts of voters signaling support for unscientific “cures”.
According to Data for Progress, 38% of American voters support “herd immunity”, or letting the novel coronavirus run its course with minimal governmental interference. While the argument of “letting healthy Americans go back to work” may have some political appeal, actual medical science doesn’t back it up. Even before he himself tested positive for COVID-19, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was compelled to abandon his “herd immunity” experiment on the British people once positively tested COVID-19 infections began to skyrocket. And after weeks of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stooping to shocking depths to pretend his constituents are “very resistant to calamities”, he’s finally starting to admit the coronavirus isn’t just a “calamity” Mexico can “resist” away.
Regardless of whatever certain political pundits claim, testing “herd immunity” essentially means playing “Russian Roulette” with millions of Americans’ lives. And while we can probably put an end to widespread social distancing and business shutdown orders at some point in the future, the only way to do it safely is to ramp up coronavirus testing and guarantee safe isolation and treatment at home for those who are still infected. Unless and until we have more widely available testing and a stronger social safety net to incentivize safe self-isolation for those who are infected, we can’t afford to rush to “#ReopenAmerica” and expect “herd immunity” to save us.
No, “natural immunity” is not a realistic coronavirus “life hack”.
Speaking of immunity, we’re continuing to see a bumper crop of reports, assertions, and rumors of “life hacks” to “boost your natural immunity to fend off the coronavirus”. While health experts typically recommend Vitamins C and D for everyday bodily maintenance, neither vitamin has any “life hacking superpower” to fend off COVID-19.
Contrary to those viral videos you may have caught, even the young and healthy can catch COVID-19. Even if these young and healthy patients show fewer symptoms and recover (relatively) quickly, they can still spread the novel coronavirus to those more at risk of severe COVID-19 illness. And no, no amount of “life hacking” echinacea, garlic, peppermint, and/or silver will build a wall of “natural immunity” that the novel coronavirus will magically pay for.
As we discussed last week, and as we’ll probably have to talk about some more in the days ahead, there’s no one “magic cure” for COVID-19. The scammers who offer these “magic cures” just want to cash in on the pandemic, so you’re simply better off tuning them out and sticking with real medical science to stay safe.
If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health District, Washoe County Health District, Carson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ respective resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to national operations like Mutual Aid Disaster Relief and local groups like Three Square.