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Dr. Phil Takes Flak for His Virus Views

He makes comparison to auto fatalities and drownings
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2020 9:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Dr. Phil is the latest TV doctor to enter the coronavirus fray, though earlier entries from Dr. Drew and Dr. Oz didn't end well. Phil McGraw, who has a doctorate in psychology, went on Laura Ingraham's show on Fox News Thursday night to argue for a loosening of lockdown rules. "This is invisible," he said. "I can't show you an X-ray of depression, I can't show you an X-ray of anxiety, but the fact of the matter is, the longer this lockdown goes on, the more vulnerable people get." McGraw repeated an argument that has been used by advocates of a faster return to normalcy: that a prolonged lockdown "will actually create more destruction and actually more deaths across time than the actual virus will itself." Some reaction:

  • Bad stat: At one point, McGraw said, "The fact of the matter is ... 45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes, 360,000 a year from swimming pools, but we don't shut the country down for that, but yet we're doing it for this?" But the Wrap points out that CDC stats show an average of about 3,500 drowning deaths a year, and that's not just in swimming pools. The site also notes that the US hasn't had 45,000 auto fatalities in more than a decade.
  • Contagion: Outlets including the Week note that McGraw failed to acknowledge that COVID-19, unlike the other items on his list, is contagious and that the current US death toll (about 33,000) is surely lower than it would be had current lockdown rules not been in place. Jay Caruso of the Washington Examiner snarks, "Those highly contagious car crashes and swimming pools are tough."
  • Other doctor: Before McGraw, Ingraham interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci, who advocated a more cautious approach, and he pushed back on Ingraham's suggestion that COVID-19 could disappear on its own. "You know, anything could, Laura," Fauci said. "But I have to tell you, the degree of efficiency of transmissibility of this is really unprecedented in anything that I’ve seen. It’s an extraordinarily efficient virus in transmitting from one person to another. Those kind of viruses don’t just disappear."
(Fauci is behind the White House's phased-in approach to reopening the country.)

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