Doctor Drew on the Coronavirus Pandemic

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The other day Dr. Steven Novella did a great article on science deniers during a pandemic. I’m not accusing Dr. Drew Pinsky of being a science denier. Clearly he isn’t. However, in my opinion what he is doing is equally problematic. For those of you who haven’t followed Doctor Drew on the coronavirus pandemic, I’ll give you some quotes and respond to them.

First, I want to point out that Dr. Drew Pinsky, in addition to being a medical doctor, is a media personality. Furthermore, he’s an American citizen. Hence, he has every right to speak his mind. The problem is in perception. Since he’s a doctor, people add weight to his words on a medical topic. However, what he’s saying isn’t scientific in nature. He’s playing oddsmaker and media critic under the title of doctor. Hence, his opinions should be couched as non-expert in my opinion.

Doctor Drew on the coronavirus pandemic.

The first statement of his I will look at is decidedly unscientific, and I would argue that he should know better than this.

“A bad flu season is 80,000 dead, we’ve got about 18,000 dead from influenza this year, we have a hundred from corona,” Pinsky said. “Which should you be worried about, influenza or corona? A hundred versus 18,000? It’s not a trick question.”

Dr. Drew on the coronavirus pandemic.

This is a false dichotomy. First, this isn’t an either/or situation. One could contract both. Moreover, one could choose to worry about neither. Worse still, it’s a false equivalency. Dr. Drew Pinsky is playing a simple oddsmaker on a bar stool on a topic where he should be setting the line for a Vegas sports book. He makes two errors here.

First, he’s comparing an established virus that is well into its season with a novel virus that is just getting started. Of course you have more cases of the flu. And while it’s likely that trend will hold up, it’s irresponsible to compare these two vastly different situations.

Second, he’s introduced another false dichotomy. One kills more than the other, as if this is the only concern. Coronavirus is causing lung scarring that many survivors will suffer from for life. The flu is much less severe. Again, this isn’t either you live or you die, and most live. It’s live, live with permanent damage, or die. Hence another false dichotomy.

Doctor Drew on the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Next, we have a bigger problem from Doctor Drew on the coronavirus.

“And look, everything that’s going on with the New York cleaning the subways and everyone using Clorox wipes and get your flu shot, which should be the other message, that’s good. That’s a good thing, so I have no problem with the behaviors.”

Dr. Drew on the coronavirus pandemic.

Here Dr. Drew Pinsky hits on the fact which makes this a false equivalency, yet leaves the fallacy out there. Yes, one should get their flu vaccine. Moreover, they should also get their COVID-19 vaccine. However, they can’t get the latter because it doesn’t exist.

Why should one worry more about a virus they can prepare for than worrying about one they can do nothing about? Simply put, one shouldn’t. Furthermore, part of the reason why the flu has a lower mortality rate is the vaccines and medications for it. Coronavirus has neither, hence it is a bigger concern.

Dr. Drew vs the medical and scientific community.

Clearly, I’m neither a doctor nor a scientist. Therefore, don’t take my opinion. Do the research yourself. You’ll find on one side experts giving you scientific and medical facts about the virus and it’s spread. On the other hand, you have an expert giving you logical fallacies, poorly constructed statistics, and half cocked explanations. Given the choice, I always choose the science.

It’s very possible that Dr. Drew Pinsky is right when he says the following about the media.

“I don’t claim to know what’s motivating the media, but my God, their reporting is absolutely reprehensible,” 

Dr. Drew on the coronavirus pandemic.

However, it’s hard to put much stock in it when he’s playing media critic instead of medical doctor. His urge to calm people is understandable. However, do it with facts. Tell us why the medical community is wrong about the virus. Does it not spread as easily as they say? Is a vaccine imminent? There is one good piece of advice that he offers in this interview.

The celebrity doctor urged people to listen and heed Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on ways to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Do what he tells you and go about your business. That’s the story. Do not be alarmed by the word ‘pandemic,’” he said.

Washington Examiner

This is good advice. I don’t want to minimize it. However, I must point out that the guy who told me not to worry about getting coronavirus just told me to be careful not to spread it. This is why it’s hard to take seriously Doctor Drew on the coronavirus.

I hope Dr. Drew is right.

Hopefully Dr. Drew Pinsky will be able to say “I told you so”. However, if he is it will likely be because of the very measures he is condemning.

“What I have a problem with is the panic and the fact that businesses are getting destroyed, that people’s lives are being upended, not by the virus, but by the panic,”

Dr. Drew Pinsky

Businesses closing or changing their model. Social distancing. These measures give us the opportunity to prove him right. However it deserves mentioning that at the time of that interview the Washington Examiner said there were 1,000 cases in the U.S and 31 deaths. That was March 11th. 9 days later, on March 20th the CDC has the numbers at 15,219 cases and 201 deaths.

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