". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


‘It’s Panic-Mongering’: Virologist Warns of Overheated Rhetoric of Flu Season Dangers

December 9, 2023

As the flu season kicks into gear, public health officials appear to be ramping up their level of public alarm through tightened masking and vaccine recommendations. But experts are concerned that the rhetoric could lead to an eventual repeat of what occurred during the 2020-2021 pandemic when government and school officials instituted controversial lockdowns, vaccination requirements, and mask mandates that failed to stop the spread of COVID-19, caused widespread economic turmoil, induced learning loss due to closed schools, and arguably contributed to irregularities during the 2020 election.

Earlier this week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Mandy Cohen released a video saying that since respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases are currently “elevated” and since COVID and pneumonia cases are on the rise, the CDC recommends getting the RSV, influenza, and COVID vaccines and wearing a mask, which Salon noted appears to be a “tightening” of its masking guidance. The video made no mention of studies showing that natural immunity is more effective than COVID vaccinations or that masks do not prevent the spread of COVID.

Mainstream media outlets are also publishing fearful speculations surrounding the annual flu season. Last week, Fortune ran a piece with the headline “Forget the ‘tripledemic.’ The U.S. is headed for a ‘syndemic’ this winter — and experts warn we’re not prepared.” In it, academics such as Raj Rajnarayanan at the New York Institute of Technology are quoted saying that “a lack of compliance” with COVID guidelines will weaken the nation’s health infrastructure. And “COVID forecaster” Jay Weiland has “little doubt” that this season’s COVID wave will be higher than last winter.

Still, the Fortune piece admits that the most recent COVID data shows that deaths are “not rising.”

Meanwhile in China, reports have surfaced that an outbreak of walking pneumonia has occurred. But Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a virologist and professor of Medicine at Stanford University, made it clear on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” Thursday that fears over the current rise in respiratory illnesses are misplaced.

“[E]ssentially what has happened [in China] is that there is an immunity deficit because of the lockdowns the Chinese had, so that there are children that are four years old that are being exposed to a bug for the first time … and they would have dealt with much better if they’d been exposed to it earlier,” he explained. “… Now we have ways to treat [walking pneumonia]. The levels were higher in 2019. … [I]t’s basically everywhere on earth. There have been reports in the Netherlands, for instance, of an uptick in cases. So I don’t see this as a cause for alarm.”

Bhattacharya continued, “[D]octors should know about it, epidemiologists should know about it, but there’s no reason on earth to panic the population about it. Like, what do you do? Are you going to close schools to avoid kids getting this bacteria? [T]he key … is to not make people panicked over something that is entirely manageable. Even [with] the ‘tripledemic,’ [if you] think about that. Every respiratory virus season, we have multiple viruses passed around among large numbers of people that we don’t have any way of controlling. And we don’t suspend our civilization every time we have respiratory virus panic [over] viruses floating around, because we know that that would cause much more harm than good. … [F]or the vast majority of the population, these respiratory viruses are nothing but a cold. … [I]t’s just panic-mongering in a way that I think is not helpful.”

Bhattacharya went on to give a grave assessment of the lockdown and mask strategy that was employed during the COVID pandemic.

“It was very, very shortsighted,” he underscored. “It … got into people’s heads that we could somehow conquer all disease. All we had to do was lock down for long enough. But what actually ends up happening is that you delay the time that you get the disease to when you’re older, and you’re going to be more vulnerable. Generally, for children especially, it’s actually quite important that they live a normal life so that their bodies can get trained to cope with the pathogens they’re going to face their entire lives. Our entire earth is filled with these pathogens … [b]ut we learn to deal with them. … [T]o have the idea in your head that you could somehow avoid germs forever is as far from reality as one can imagine. And when you try to play around with those kinds of ideas and implement them at scale, like we did with the lockdowns, you’re going to cause unintended consequences, unintended harm.”

Bhattacharya further noted with dismay that U.S. officials are not engaging in a straightforward assessment of pandemic policies that were implemented. “[T]he tenor seems to be, ‘Well, why didn’t we lock down earlier? Why didn’t we be more draconian?’ You know, draconian policy is not the way to manage pandemics. … I think we have not yet had anywhere in the world an honest inquiry run by people. [A]lmost all of these inquiries have been run by people who have vested interest in trying to make people think they did the right thing, when evidently they didn’t.”

He continued by highlighting how what happened during the pandemic has led to a collapse in public trust of scientists and doctors. “[I]t’s been shocking to see how little introspection … has been done by our scientific leaders, even the new set of leaders who are replacing the old ones [like] the new head of the NIH [and] the new head of the CDC. They’ll mouth words about ‘accountability’ and … ‘rebuild[ing] trust.’ And yet [CDC Director Cohen’s] actions and her words basically say, ‘Well, [we] just didn’t think [we] did anything wrong, [we] just somehow failed to persuade people that [we] were right.’ In fact, they were evidently wrong about item after item after item. … How do they expect to … regain trust when they still are doubling down on absolute nonsense?”

As to how American citizens and voters can help stop future lockdowns and mandates from occurring, Bhattacharya was clear.

“I think the most important thing is that you can ask your leaders — whoever you’re voting for, from dog catcher to president — ‘What are you going to do the next time there’s a pandemic? Are you going to close my school down? … [H]ow do you plan to reform the CDC? … How do you plan to reform the NIH so that you don’t fund dangerous research … that probably led to the pandemic? … How are you going to make sure that the FDA regulates the pharmaceutical industry, rather than be captured by it?’ I think every single voter should be asking every single elected official these questions, because it’s not like we can just go back to normal. That ship has sailed. We have to push our elected leaders to do the right thing.”

Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.