Health Care

Doctors push Trump to quickly reopen country in letter organized by conservatives

More than 600 physicians signed a letter organized in part by a conservative group that warns President Trump against a lengthy economic shutdown because of the coronavirus.

The doctors call such closures a “mass casualty” event. 

The letter was spearheaded by Simone Gold, a California emergency medical specialist. Jenny Beth Martin, the cofounder of Tea Party Patriots, helped organize the letter and get it to the White House. 

It was released as the Trump campaign has been actively soliciting the support of pro-Trump physicians, according to The Associated Press.

Gold wrote the shutdown has adversely impacted Americans due to missed cancer screenings, canceled dental appointments and spikes in mental health problems. 

“We are alarmed at what appears to be the lack of consideration for the future health of our patients. The downstream health effects of deteriorating a level are being massively under-estimated and under-reported. This is an order of magnitude error,” the letter says. 

“The millions of casualties of a continued shutdown will be hiding in plain sight, but they will be called alcoholism, homelessness, suicide, heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure,” it says. “In youths it will be called financial instability, unemployment, despair, drug addiction, unplanned pregnancies, poverty, and abuse.” 

Neither Gold nor Beth Martin have been in touch with the Trump campaign about the effort, they said in separate interviews.

The letter nonetheless marks a push by conservatives to amplify doctors whose opinions are aligned with those of the president and his supporters who have pushed for a swift reopening of the country even as the COVID-19 death toll approaches 100,000 people. 

Gold said in an interview with The Hill she doesn’t want to be seen as political, and is merely concerned about the negative medical impacts of the shutdown. Gold described it as a “grassroots” effort and rejected characterizations of it as a “political movement.” 

“We are in agreement with opening the economy because it is in the patients and public’s best interest,” Gold said. 

Gold said she doesn’t think hospitals will be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases if states reopen too quickly. She did not offer any solutions in the letter to how states should reopen, saying only that she thinks too many people have been harmed by the shutdown.

Some of the doctors who signed onto the letter are aligned with a small right-wing medical organization called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) that has promoted discredited medical theories, and opposes Medicare. 

The group opposes mandatory vaccines, has questioned that HIV is the cause of AIDS, and has asserted that former President Obama used “a covert form of hypnosis” to attract support for his 2008 campaign. At one time, its membership included Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

Gold said she does not belong to the group, but many of their members share her views about a fast reopening. AAPS said it was not formally associated with Gold’s effort. 

Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said he doesn’t think anyone would argue in favor of an indefinite shutdown, but there’s a difference between reopening safely based on science, and reopening quickly without science. 

For example, he said if someone is promoting the wide use of hydroxychloroquine, “I would question the veracity of a lot of other things” they said, because it is not “steeped in science.” 

Gold has recently appeared on conservative talk radio and podcasts to advocate for the use of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that Trump has touted for months, and said he is taking because he believes it can prevent COVID-19. 

His own administration has warned it can have deadly side effects, and said it should only be used in a hospital as part of a clinical trial. Gold said she has prescribed the drug to at least two COVID-19 patients in the emergency room, and their conditions improved.

Tags Barack Obama Coronavirus Donald Trump Rand Paul Tom Price

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