COVID-19 Response Sets New Normal for Big Government

Published April 15, 2020

No, thank you. These ad hoc restrictions on our liberties are not normal, not in the United States of America.

In the name of public health, governments are releasing prisoners from jail while restricting what drugs physicians can use to treat their COVID-19 patients, and cancer patients are having their treatments delayed as “elective.”

Every day, 7,400 people die in the United States, from many causes, including infectious diseases, but running totals are not broadcast on every medium. The unceasing barrage of news programs about the coronavirus/COVID-19 has become a means to whip the public into submission.

The mayor of Los Angeles is perversely proud that 99 percent of “nonessential” businesses are closed, and he threatens to sue those that have not shut down. A California town has issued 129 citations at $1,000 a pop for noncompliance. Riverside County announced plans to cite residents witnessed as having their faces uncovered.

Obamacare architect Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel suggests the country stay on lockdown for one and a half years or “until we find a vaccine or effective medications.” This is lunacy.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 40 percent of women, 37 percent of men, and nearly half of the nation’s parents with a child younger than 18 years old report they have lost their job or income or had their hours reduced without pay. A classic 1979 study found that for every 10 percent increase in the unemployment rate, mortality increased by 1.2 percent, cardiovascular disease by 1.7 percent, cirrhosis of the liver by 1.3 percent, suicides by 1.7 percent, arrests by 4 percent, and reported assaults by 0.8 percent.

Before the pandemic, nearly 20 people per minute were physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Predictably, episodes of domestic violence and child abuse have now increased. Closed businesses have become easy targets for thieves.

Sound Alternative

There is a rational course of action available as an alternative to shutting down human contact and the economy. Sweden has no more deaths or symptomatic infections per capita than many other countries, despite choosing to encourage its citizens to physically distance as much as possible, instead of having government mandate and enforce the rule.

We must allow physicians to treat their patients as they see fit, with effective drugs. Multiple physicians around the world are reporting success with hydroxychloroquine, a new, off-label use for this FDA-approved drug for a new virus. If this virus is akin to Armageddon, then all reasonable ideas should be welcomed. The erection of barriers against this potentially lifesaving drug by many governors and state medical boards is appalling and unforgivable.

Hydroxychloroquine was approved for medical use in the United States more than 60 years ago. It has been safely used for years for malaria prophylaxis, autoimmune disease, and porphyria, a blood disease affecting hemoglobin (which carries oxygen to our tissues). Hydroxychloroquine is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the “most effective and safe” to meet the most important needs of a health care system. Widespread use of this inexpensive drug could obviate the need for many ICU beds and ventilators.

In addition to early treatment, we must have a rational policy for getting people back to work. All states are not affected equally. Let’s test every working person for antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. We may find many have had an asymptomatic infection. These immune individuals will not pass the disease to others. At-risk individuals should be allowed to choose whether to stay at home.

Ending the lockdown is not about Wall Street or disregard for people’s lives; it is about saving lives. Advanced stages of non-COVID diseases, suicides, domestic violence, increases in substance abuse and mental health disorders, permanent poverty, and dissolution of the middle class are unacceptable. Our society must not be fractured into those who live in gated communities and those who live in the streets, trailer parks, and decaying homes that they can no longer afford to keep up.

We all want to do our part to slow the spread of serious COVID infections in our communities. But we cannot hand our lives over to the government, particularly when the virus has become an opportunity for Congress to pass pork-filled legislation, for showboating governors to out-quarantine each other, and for politically connected tech companies to share cell phone tracking data with the government. I hate to think some have a financial incentive for promoting a currently untested and unapproved vaccine in lieu of an effective, inexpensive, and readily available treatment.

People are saying America will never be the same. I hope this will not mean the statists have succeeded in using COVID as an excuse to enact laws that will permanently curtail our liberties and freedom to practice medicine in the best interest of our patients.

Marilyn M. Singleton, M.D., J.D., is a board-certified anesthesiologist and past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. She has no financial interest in hydroxychloroquine.