Testifying remotely during a "socially distanced" webcast Senate hearing on the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday, Dr. David Katz, president of the True Health Initiative, suggested that not only was the national shutdown to curb the coronavirus potentially pointless, it's likely doing far more harm to public health than good.
“98 to 99 percent of all cases are mild. This tends to be a relatively mild infection and may often be asymptomatic,” Katz said, pointing out that most people handle the virus just fine, and that some may even be naturally resistant to the bug entirely.
Katz then suggested that it's likely the coronavirus had already spread beyond our control well before the first efforts were ever made to contain it, referencing a study out of New York that revealed roughly 20 percent of NYC residents in the hardest-hit areas already had COVID-19 antibodies in their system despite some having never even known they were sick.
Katz said that could mean upwards of 4 million New Yorkers had been infected, driving the fatality rate far lower than had been previously thought.
“We may have closed the barn door after all the horses left,” he said.
“When the denominator swells to that degree, the percent of severe cases drops precipitously," he added.
Katz went on to explain that government interdiction methods meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 may have actually harmed the public more than helped, especially if the virus had already spread before we ever locked down the country.
“If we were protecting people who didn’t need to be protected from this virus because it wasn’t acutely dangerous to them, then causing them to lose their livelihood, putting them in a position of food insecurity and potential poverty, was more likely to hurt them than the virus," he explained.
Katz said that while the massive shutdowns were supposedly in an effort to protect public health, fallout from people losing their jobs, incomes and food security will have a negative impact on public health, including having a damaging effect on mental health.
“We do need a bracing dose of humility,” he said, adding that the best way forward would more likely be to isolate those who are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms from the coronavirus while allowing other, less vulnerable segments of the population to ease back into normalcy and develop a natural immunity through contact with the bug.
Watch the Senate hearing, including Katz's testimony, here.