While coronavirus has been devastating to thousands across the country, it’s been a boon for others in regards to raising their profiles. The exposure that is to be gained by slapping “expert” by your name and appearing on cable news is nearly unlimited during a time of constant fear porn regarding the current pandemic. If you are willing to go on air and tell CNN that Texas is the next New York or that we may have to lock down again, they’ll probably put you on.
Enter Scott Gottlieb, who once worked for the Trump administration but has recently made his name by being a frequent TV commentator regarding the coronavirus. He’s also a favorite among some conservatives despite his commentary appearing to have no more insight than your average Twitter user.
This morning, Gottlieb appeared on CNBC to proclaim that some states had sought to “crush the virus” while others settled on the “Swedish model.”
U.S. approach on Covid is a tale of two cities. Some states like CT, NY, MA sought to crush virus; some like FL, TX, AZ sought the Swedish model and tried to manage spread to the less vulnerable. Without a more uniform U.S. approach, it’ll be hard for either strategy to work. https://t.co/MMk81uJOin
— Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD) July 10, 2020
Note that he’s promoting his own cable news hit, but I digress.
There are many problems with his statement, including his framing that New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts sought to “crush the virus.” For starters, you can not crush a virus for which there is no vaccine. You can only temporarily suppress it. In that vein, even NY is likely to see a resurgence in cases and deaths in the future. You can only stay locked down for so long, and environmental factors (i.e. the southern heat forcing people indoors where the virus spreads) also play a large role in the ebbs and flows we are seeing in these states. Claiming that states like New York “crushed the virus” after they endured 8-10x the deaths of other states is silly. They had the virus run through their population, including nursing homes to the point where a decline was simply inevitable. If you jump off a cliff, you will eventually hit the ground. That’s not a victory.
As to his other contention, i.e. that states like Florida and Texas are following the “Swedish model,” that’s another misleading insinuation on his part meant to paint them in a bad light. The Swedish model would denote higher death rates from the beginning of the pandemic compared to other countries. Sweden’s death rate is far higher than its neighbors. If Texas were on the Swedish model, they’d have more deaths than New York, but no projection shows that, and for good reason. In reality, they have about ten times fewer deaths. While that gap may close some, Texas is nowhere near “becoming” New York, as CNN proclaimed yesterday via the former head of Planned Parenthood.
The demographics of those being infected also matters, and new cases in the south are predominantly among the young. If anything, New York followed the Swedish model (in so far as the media and Gottlieb would define it), allowing the virus to run rampant with little effective (that’s the key word) mitigation for well over a month. It took New York until the end of April to even clean the subways, a primary infection vector.
Ben Shapiro noted the issues with Gottlieb’s statement in the following reply.
Total deaths by state (source Worldometers):
NY: 32,343 (population 19.45M)
NJ: 15,522 (8.9M)
MA: 8,268 (6.9M)
CT: 4,348 (3.5M)
TX: 3,046 (29M)
FL: 4,009 (21.5M)
AZ: 2,038 (7.3M)
Who crushed what curve now? https://t.co/r7xbmylwNp
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 10, 2020
Gottlieb answered with this glossing over of the situation.
There's no question we were slow to react in March, slow to implement right policies, protect vulnerable, get testing stood up, advance medical care. States with early importations (NY) paid very heavy price for it. Hopefully we learned, and deaths in TX, FL, AZ stay lower.
— Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD) July 10, 2020
The suggestion here is that New York was only as bad as it was because of bad luck. It’s a gentle way of saying that TX, FL, and AZ haven’t learned the lessons New York graciously showed us. Yet, the state of Washington had the virus in large numbers before New York did. They didn’t turn into a war zone, and their nursing homes didn’t do double duty as morgues. The truth is, the carnage we saw up north was almost exclusively a result of awful decision making at the state and local levels. Despite perceptions to the contrary, they did not mitigate where it mattered (public transportation) and things like testing would not have saved the thousands dead in nursing homes, as those sent back by order of Gov. Cuomo were already known to be positive.
There was a time when Gottlieb was more measured in his pronouncements. His gradual change has followed the frequency of his hits on cable news. That’s not a coincidence. These “experts” know that if they don’t bring the right rhetoric and requisite amount of doom and gloom about the places CNN doesn’t like, they won’t get invited on. Gottlieb’s latest commentary is much less of an honest assessment than it is a bat signal for the booking agents to keep calling. Conservatives should find better sources of information.