Federalist Suggests Fun Coronavirus Parties For Hip Young Swingles
Among the many bad takes out there on how we should hurry up and ignore public health experts so Donald Trump can get Barack Obama's economy back in time for Easter, we should have known the rightwing brain trust at the Federalist would be the first to urge us to stop worrying and love the virus. In a bizarre piece that reads like Outbreak fanfiction, Douglas A. Perednia, a dermatologist from Portland, Oregon, explains that the best way to get the economy up and running again would be for lots of healthy young people to voluntarily get infected with COVID-19 so they could gain immunity, then get to work growing the economy. It would be entirely voluntary, he's sure it would work, and it would be ever so much quicker than waiting around for months, so Perednia thinks we should give it some serious consideration.
You bet, just as soon as we find out who funds the Federalist.
Yr Doktor Zoom is not a physician. But I am a Doktor of Rhetoric, and I can diagnose a shitty argument pretty handily. This monster of faulty logic should never have been allowed out of the dungeon of the old castle where it was stitched together, not even as a thought experiment. The possibility that some rightwing True Believers may rush out to try it makes publishing the thing even more irresponsible. We've already had one person in the US die after rushing out to try what they thought Donald Trump was prescribing, so there's at least a strong chance some bunch of patriots will rush out to get themselves infected to own the libs.
Our Truth Sandwich on Perednia's call for medically supervised coronavirus parties starts with a couple basic facts that outweigh all the neat hypotheticals in Perednia's fun plan for getting people sick to make the economy well.
The first comes straight from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 FAQ:
Q: Can people who recover from COVID-19 be infected again?
A: The immune response to COVID-19 is not yet understood. Patients with MERS-CoV infection are unlikely to be re-infected shortly after they recover, but it is not yet known whether similar immune protection will be observed for patients with COVID-19.
The science simply isn't in yet on whether infection with COVID-19 confers longterm immunity like a successful vaccine would. As a roundup of current research at New Scientist published today says, some of the early animal research so far "looks encouraging," but the bottom line is that we just don't know. Perednia simply assumes this is true, and now you can all feel superior for recognizing that as the begging the question fallacy, when a major assumption is left unproven.
Second: Even for young-n-healthy people, COVID-19 can cause severe illness and death. While the mortality rates are definitely higher for older adults and those with underlying health problems, data from China still showed that 20 percent of hospitalizations occurred among people aged 20 to 44. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week that young healthies shouldn't be complacent:
I have a message for young people: You are not invincible, this virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you. Even if you don't get sick the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else.
Third: Hospitals are already facing severe shortages of staff, personal protective equipment, and ventilators even before some harebrained plan to deliberately make people sick so they get it over with.
OK, and now let us glove up and deconstruct the bullshit.
Does Perednia even bring up the still-unsettled state of the research? Heck naw. After insisting — wrongly — that isolation and social distancing can't work (except for how they seem to!) he barrels forward, stating an unproven assumption as if it were fact. He even makes up a sciencey-sounding term with a cool abbreviation, which as we all know makes it more scientific. What America needs to try is an "out of the box" answer: "controlled voluntary infection (CVI)."
It shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that this truly is a neologism — it doesn't seem to appear on Google before today, not even among the anti-vax crowd. So here's how this brand-new idea works in the clinical practice that Perednia just pulled out of his ass:
CVI involves allowing people at low risk for severe complications to deliberately contract COVID-19 in a socially and medically responsible way so they become immune to the disease. People who are immune cannot pass on the disease to others.
If CVI were to become widespread and successful, it could be a powerful tool for both suppressing the Wuhan coronavirus and saving the economy. It could reduce the danger of passing COVID-19 to vulnerable populations, drastically reduce the amount of social isolation needed, reopen businesses, and even help achieve the level of "herd immunity" needed to stop the spread of the disease within the population.
Oh, did we mention the piece uses "Wuhan coronavirus" throughout, instead of the politically correct fake names "SARS-CoV-2" and "COVID-19" used by the CDC, WHO, and doctors and researchers everywhere else? Because science. Then Perednia explains his plan would simply update the old pre-vaccine days chicken pox and measles parties people used to hold to get their kids sick all at once and confer immunity, and those worked just great, didn't they, as long as you ignore the occasional death or permanent disability, outcomes he doesn't mention. Step aside, Melanie's Marvelous Measles, it's time for Caitlin's Crazy Cool Coronavirus. [See Update at end of article]
Soon he's on to the details of how it all would work, and darned if there isn't another gaping reality-shaped hole in his beautiful plan. You might not notice it since it's buried in at the end of his list. And look! He's once again begging the question by assuming that having COVID-19 provides lifetime immunity.
A critical component of this program is widespread testing of the general population to determine exactly who has and has not already become immune to coronavirus. Those who have previously been infected and developed immunity would also be given a certified clean bill of immunity.
Perednia's actually begging two questions here, since he magics into place a widespread testing ability that the US isn't even close to achieving. You'd think he'd have heard about it, it's kind of a thing.
Still, you have to stand back and admire his vision for how it would all work, not to mention all the shit he's taking for granted. Groups of volunteers would be screened to make sure they really are healthy and hardy enough to withstand a little dose of 'Rona (as far as we know, there's no such guarantee for anyone), and then,
After being medically screened, participants are actively exposed to the mildest form of COVID-19 virus available.
Has such a "mild" strain of 'Rona been isolated? Pfft, nah, but surely it will be!
Then it's Coronavirus PARTY ON:
They are then housed under quarantine in an appropriate CVI facility. The facility could be as small as one's home or as large as a hotel or cruise ship. (Given the recent example of spring break 2020 for college students in Florida, one could imagine CVI even becoming a social activity.)
A small nitpick: None of the frolicking young idiots in that TV footage was actually symptomatic, as far as anyone knows. But sure, exactly the same.
As for the potentially severe health risks, Perednia says no problem, if anyone starts getting really sick, we'll just get 'em to a hospital. He literally dismisses that possibility in the middle of a paragraph, with no mention of the fact that hospitals are in crisis right goddamn now.
The whole thing is like that. Or maybe it's more like this:
Dr. Strangelove (8/8) Movie CLIP - Living Underground (1964) HDyoutu.be
To be sure, Dr. Perednia's fantasy would go down a lot easier delivered in Peter Sellers's voice. Animals vill be bred und schlaaaaughtered!
Also, for laughs, Perednia notes that there are a few "potential limitations," like whether we can develop a test sensitive enough to tell whether someone has really achieved permanent immunity. He's sure we can, leaving aside the unimportant details that we don't yet have enough tests to even diagnose the disease, plus that annoying bit where he assumes immunity even is a thing. Also, he wonders about other shit that has little to do with the mere realities of what we know about the disease now, like whether taxpayers would fund the Infection Cruises or what the liability situation would look like.
It's an incredibly stupid, bad piece of writing. Expect it to become White House policy soon.
UPDATE: LOL, the Federalist got its stupid Twitter account temporarily locked for tweeting out misinformation. That is, promoting their dumb COVID-19 party article.
UPDATED UPDATE: Mediaite spoke to Douglas Perednia, who it turns out is no longer a doctor (he retired in 2019). Perednia says the information on "chickenpox parties" was originally only in a footnote, and that the Federalist moved it to the main text and made it part of the headline without consulting him. The Federalist also replaced "COVID-19" with "Wuhan coronavirus" throughout, also without contacting him. He also gave Mediaite a copy of the original draft. But he stands by the rest of the article, which remains crap.
[CDC / New Scientist / CDC / BBC / MIT Technology Review / Updates: Mediaite and Mediaite]
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.