Twitter has removed a tweet from the right-wing site the Federalist after it shared an article by an unlicensed dermatologist urging the public to be exposed to the novel coronavirus en masse and the social network temporarily locked the site’s account.
For those who have mercifully avoided reading its content, the Federalist is a mysteriously funded, sycophantic pro-Donald Trump site with one particular specialty: articles in which the authors contort themselves into a brain pretzel to lecture an imaginary audience of liberals about how the world’s dumbest ideas are actually very logical and smart. (Essentially, think of it as if Trump’s Twitter feed found half a thesaurus in the gutter.) Lately, the publication has focused on justifying the White House’s push to re-open the economy with a slew of articles arguing the pandemic is fuelled by media hysteria, that the economic impact of shutdowns will be worse than a surge in covid-19 cases, or that projections of how fast the disease could spread are based on bogus data.
The specific article that Twitter removed for violating its policies on coronavirus disinformation was titled “How Medical ‘Chickenpox Parties’ Could Turn The Tide Of The Wuhan Virus” and penned by Portland dermatologist Doug Perednia, whose byline identifies him as a “physician.” In it, Perednia claimed that strategies to mitigate the spread of the virus will only delay the worst part of the outbreak and suppressing the virus with vaccines or drugs isn’t likely to materialise soon.
Twitter removed this tweet from The Federalist pic.twitter.com/c61YOchSa8
— Jared Holt (@jaredlholt) March 25, 2020
So the answer, Perednia posits? People who are at lower risk of symptoms from the disease should deliberately expose themselves to it, which would be a “powerful tool for both suppressing the Wuhan coronavirus and saving the economy”:
Neither mitigation nor waiting for a vaccine is acceptable given the magnitude of the problem we are facing. Economies are like a living organism — as soon as their normal functions are shut down, they begin to die. Savings, capital, income, and taxes all evaporate. Companies begin to close, and many will not have the resources to begin again. Massive deficits will become a huge burden for future generations. Meanwhile, the regular health care system is all but shut down.
It is time to think outside the box and seriously consider a third, somewhat unconventional alternative: controlled voluntary infection (CVI).
Later in the article, Perednia wrote that there should be “safe infection” sites (run by whom is left unsaid) for healthy young people where they could be deliberately exposed to the coronavirus and held until the symptoms of covid-19 pass. Despite the considerable scientific uncertainty on how long those with the virus remain infectious, Perednia insisted that people who recover could receive a “certified clean bill of immunity” and “move freely, work anywhere, and be freed from social distancing.”
Those that experience “serious medical complications would be evacuated to an acute care facility,” Perednia wrote, though he didn’t propose a plan for how those people would be cared for and suggested the government might not necessarily be obligated to pay for it. He concluded that for his plan to work, about two-thirds of the population would have to undergo such “immunizing” for the U.S. to achieve herd immunity.
Problem solved! This is not a death cult!
In reality, health authorities around the globe are desperately trying to slow down the spread of the virus specifically because when large numbers of people become sick simultaneously, health care systems can become overwhelmed with patients. That means medical personnel won’t have the time or resources to treat everyone—which is the situation in parts of Europe where deaths from the virus have surged. U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci has urged the public to practice social distancing.
People who deliberately infect themselves or others would not only be gambling with their own lives and the lives of vulnerable populations’, they’d be undermining federal, state, and local emergency efforts and possibly committing a criminal offence. Hospitals in places like New York are already overwhelmed and running low on supplies, with medical personnel fearing that they will soon need to triage patients (i.e., picking and choosing who will receive potentially life-saving care and who might die).
On Wednesday, Vice reported that Perednia’s licence to practice medicine in Oregon has lapsed, despite him billing himself as a physician, and his LinkedIn shows he’s worked in the business world for the last two and a half decades. A member of the Oregon Medical Board told Vice, “That would be misleading the public. In Oregon, that is a violation of the Medical Practices Act. That would have to be investigated.”
The Federalist’s account “was temporarily locked for violating the Twitter Rules regarding COVID-19,” a Twitter spokesperson told Gizmodo. Furthermore, attempting to click on a link to the article on Twitter returns a message saying “Warning: this link may be unsafe”:
Perednia’s vision of a future where virus infection centres are a thing that exists isn’t going to happen, but Trump could decide to contradict health experts who are warning the worst is yet to come and he could tell the public that it’s safe to go out. While the restrictions that are currently in place are mandated by state and local governments, Trump could also bully them into loosening them, having already hinted federal aid might be dependent on governors’ relationships with the White House.
Swathes of the conservative media have been urging Trump to “restart” the economy as soon as possible, seemingly under the impression that the potential implosion of the health care system will somehow be better for business. As the Washington Post noted, right-wing pundits have nevertheless increasingly insisted that ending the restrictions and risking large numbers of deaths is an acceptable tradeoff for an economic recovery, and they’ve claimed that the mitigation strategies are a prelude to socialism.