Tom McClintock’s COVID-19 Science Deserves Scrutiny

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BY ALLISON PEDLEY | Moonshine Ink

In Representative Tom McClintock’s June 3 Washington Examiner opinion piece, COVID-19 shows that experts don’t know everything, he presents his frustration over too much reliance on scientific experts during the COVID-19 outbreak, claiming this led to poor policy decisions.

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His electorate would be wise to dissect this analysis.

First, McClintock attempts to downplay the loss of lives our nation has experienced due to COVID-19. By comparing percentage of fatal symptomatic COVID-19 cases (0.4%) to seasonal flu fatalities (0.1%), he wants you to think there’s little measurable difference. Of course, he is hiding the part that matters to Americans: the contrast in real numbers is a devastating 34,200 flu deaths in 2019-20, and well over 113,000 COVID-19 deaths so far this year. We should all wonder why he chose to use tiny percentages over the actual, devastating numbers.

Because McClintock doesn’t seem to believe that 113,000 deaths is significant, he also seems to believe that the temporary shutdown of schools and businesses was unnecessary. To make this point, his article offers links to several studies that show “no statistical difference in the infection curves” between jurisdictions that implemented lockdown restrictions and those that haven’t. An even casual review of these references, however, shows McClintock again hasn’t seen (or doesn’t want us to see) the true numbers. For example, he uses a study by Isaac Ben-Israel of Tel Aviv University published on April 16, which claims that the spread of the virus will “fade within two more weeks” (by early May). With cases in the United States (and Israel) not even close to fading as of early June, we can again surmise that McClintock chose to cite this study hoping nobody would actually read it.

McClintock also presents a study by JP Morgan noting that infections are dropping as cities and towns open. Again, our esteemed representative is hoping nobody has noticed a definite, sometimes significant rise in COVID-19 cases in many cities and towns since restrictions have been lifted, including McClintock’s district. Importantly, two of the studies cited by McClintock do promote the use of masks to stop the spread of the virus — a very simple guideline where McClintock has shown zero leadership.

Oddly, McClintock also presents a study from China that compares outbreaks in enclosed versus outdoor spaces. Because the study revealed that 80% of transmissions occurred in homes, McClintock seems to think this tells us that sheltering in place is bad policy. Of course not. The point of this study (if you read it) is that indoor transmission is far more likely than outdoor. As such, if anything, the study supports the need to temporarily close schools and businesses to avoid indoor transmission.

Finally, McClintock appears to express great sadness over additional “deaths of despair” that might occur as a result of the lockdowns, citing a study by the Well Being Trust. Having never expressed condolences to the victims in his district, or acknowledged the tragic loss of 108,000 lives, he suddenly seems very worried about deaths due to suicide and drug and alcohol abuse. Most heartfelt individuals will agree this is a frightening possibility that we need to address. But McClintock, who regularly votes to deny affordable healthcare to Americans, can’t possibly be sincere in his concern. However, I will be the first to cheer him on if he pushes legislation through Congress that addresses improvements to healthcare access recommended by the Well Being Trust in the article he references, and he helps our country prevent these additional tragedies.

As COVID cases in our country continue to grow, I will agree with Representative McClintock that “common sense” is necessary. I will agree that not every policy decision has been logical among our leaders. But misrepresenting numbers, misinterpreting data, and outright failing to present reality to constituents, McClintock is doing the very opposite of what he’s calling for — he is cherry-picking for anything that might support his extreme partisan agenda (with poor results).

Here is another idea to consider: elected officials working together to seek a bipartisan review of  consensus within the scientific community that will support good, common sense policy decisions. Which tactic will move our country forward and allow us to best deal with COVID-19 from here on out? Certainly not McClintock’s. We deserve much, much better.

~ Allison Pedley is a Truckee resident.

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