TV doctors like Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz keep blowing it when talking coronavirus
If you can't trust the advice of a doctor with a TV show, who can you trust?
Apparently, just about anybody else.
First, Dr. Phil told Fox News' Laura Ingraham on her show The Ingraham Angle that “we probably shouldn’t have ever started” stay-at-home orders to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.
That opinion goes against almost every health expert, but is at least a debatable point given the massive economic cost of the shutdown and still-unknown number of infected due to the ongoing lack of easily accessible testing (the more who have been infected, the less deadly the virus likely is).
But then Dr. Phil compared coronavirus deaths to drownings, claiming there are 360,000 deaths per year due to swimming pools. "But we don’t shut the country down for that!" he exclaimed.
No, we don't, because that number isn't remotely true. That would mean America's killer swimming pools were somehow claiming more victims annually than strokes and Alzheimer's combined. Get ready to get real: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there's actually an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings in the U.S. per year, not 100 times more, with swimming pool drownings presumably comprising only part of that. (Yes, the CDC tracks accidental drownings, though hopefully the agency, which has been slammed for fumbling its coronavirus response, will focus more on the "Disease" part of their name in the future).
Dr. Phil was probably referring to a World Health Organization statistic that estimates 320,000 people drown worldwide each year, with 90 percent occurring in low- and middle-income countries.
Granted, nobody expects Dr. Fauci-level pandemic insight from Dr. Phil, whose Ph.D. is in clinical psychology.
But perhaps one might get better advice from Dr. Oz or Dr. Drew, both of whom have earned medical degrees?
Not at all!
On Tuesday, Dr. Oz was on another Fox News show, Hannity, where he suggested reopening schools. "The opening of schools may only cost us 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality," Dr. Oz said, and then called the idea "a very appetizing opportunity" to help the country get its "mojo back."
So very appetizing. Is a ventilator for dessert?
To be fair, many online took Dr. Oz's strangely worded comments out of context, claiming he was suggesting 2 to 3 percent of children should be allowed to die (rather than "only" 10 million middle-aged and elderly people who are apparently quite worthy of tasty sacrifice).
Still, it wasn't a good look, and the daytime talk show host later apologized.
“I’ve realized my comments on risks around opening schools have confused and upset people, which was never my intention,” Oz said. “I misspoke ...We know for many kids, school is a place of security, nutrition, and learning that is missing right now. These are issues that we are all wrestling with. And I will continue looking for solutions to beat this virus."
For the record, the number of people under 25 who have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. is extremely low, but also not zero — 16 have died thus far, according to the CDC.
Finally, there was TV doctor foot-in-mouth trailblazer Dr. Drew, who much earlier in the pandemic went out on a limb, and it broke right off from under him. The former Celebrity Rehab host dismissed the outbreak as “a press-induced panic” on March 3, and repeatedly suggested the seasonal flu was worse, and even said the odds of dying of coronavirus was less than being "hit by an asteroid." That last statement would be accurate if 40,000 Americans (and counting) were killed by asteroids each year.
Dr. Drew likewise later apologized, saying "I wish I had gotten it right, but I got it wrong," and said his intention was merely "to try to lessen the panic that I could see coming."
Again, in fairness to Dr. Drew, he was far from alone in believing the pandemic wasn't a significant threat. Many people in early March were vastly underestimating the seriousness of COVID-19 ... they just typically weren't called doctors.