On Friday night, instead of opting for a despicably racist rant against China over the novel coronavirus or blaming the media, Bill Maher welcomed Dr. David Katz, a doctor and ex-instructor at the Yale School of Medicine, onto his show Real Time.
Dr. Katz, who consistently flaunts his Yale ties despite the fact that they were severed in 2016, has become something of a right-wing darling after penning a controversial New York Times op-ed on March 20 titled “Is Our Fight Against Coronavirus Worse Than the Disease?” In it, Katz argues against the self-isolation policies put in place by most of the U.S., instead saying the country should isolate the elderly and infirm, which would thus “allow most of society to return to life as usual and perhaps prevent vast segments of the economy from collapsing. Healthy children could return to school and healthy adults go back to their jobs. Theaters and restaurants could reopen, though we might be wise to avoid very large social gatherings like stadium sporting events and concerts.”
Following his op-ed, Katz has made appearances on Fox News touting his hole-filled theory, thereby co-signing a network that’s called the pandemic a “hoax”; repeatedly downplayed it; and spent hours and hours pushing hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure, even though it’s been determined by most of the medical community to do way more harm than good following a series of poisonings and deaths. On top of that, a convincing refutation of Katz’s ill-advised piece was published in The New York Times from those currently at the Yale School of Public Health that read, in part:
First, it is not yet known who all of the most vulnerable people are. We believe that it is easier, quicker and more efficient to reduce transmission over all than to permit high levels of transmission in the community but somehow keep it from afflicting susceptible people in our highly networked world.
Second, it is likely that more intense transmission among younger people, who Dr. Katz suggests should be freed of most social-distancing restrictions, would result in many more of their deaths, especially as hospitals become overwhelmed.
Third, allowing the virus to spread uninhibited across a wide swath of our country might eliminate any hope we might have of snuffing out viral transmission into a new respiratory virus season next winter.
Despite all this, there Katz was on Maher’s HBO show regurgitating the arguments he made in his ridiculed Times piece—which he wrote when we were at 200 deaths nationwide; we’re now at 52,400 deaths and climbing with strict shutdowns and social distancing in place.
He said America should take “the middle path,” wherein “high-risk people are protected from exposure, low-risk people go out in the world early,” before saying something truly wild: “We actually kind of want to get this, and get over with, and be immune, because that is the path to the all-clear that doesn’t require us to wait for a vaccine.”
To Katz’s argument that everyone should want to get infected with COVID-19, Maher replied, “Yeah, I think you make a lot of sense there. And I think it’s a shame—you talk about politicization, that people like you who sound reasonable, maybe it’s not the exact one true opinion you hear somewhere else, has to go on Fox News.”
Further, Katz claimed that it’s “the liberal ideology that seems to be so resistant to talking about unemployment and the economy,” when amid the COVID-19 crisis, the progressive left wing of the Democratic Party—Bernie Sanders, AOC and the like—have been fighting hard for workers and arguing for rent cancellation as well as giving $2,000 a month to each household during the shutdown (similar to the policies instituted in Canada, which has done a fine job containing the virus’ spread), while Republicans in Congress pushed for tax language in the stimulus bill that overwhelmingly benefits millionaires. But far be it from Bill Maher, a supposed Sanders supporter, to disagree with that dubious claim.
“To Katz’s argument that everyone should want to get infected with COVID-19, Maher replied, “Yeah, I think you make a lot of sense there.””
Here are some things Katz conveniently left out: as we’ve seen in New York City, the epicenter of the crisis, approximately 28 percent of deaths have been people under the age of 64. And while people under the age of 44 have only accounted for a comparatively small number of deaths, they’ve accounted for a high number of hospitalizations, which has not only overwhelmed hospitals (causing many sick people to die due to a lack of supplies or staff) but will also inevitably land many in serious financial debt.
I’ll leave you with the current leadership of the Yale School of Public Health who, in their letter repudiating Katz, wrote:
Until we have a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 and effective antiviral drugs, it is essential to engage in aggressive personal hygiene, social distancing, increased testing, isolation of exposed people, and strategies to avoid transmission in health settings. We must buy time for these advances and save lives in the interim.