"First of all this is no longer an epidemic. The numbers are just not there."
At church this morning I spoke to Dr. Hans Oppenheimer, a rheumatologist. He is 75-ish and has been practicing for 40+ years. I often ask him medical questions, because he is well read, thoughtful and has the kind of directness that comes with age and experience. I asked him whether the recent order by the County of Los Angeles to mask indoors was justified.
"No it isn't," he said. "First of all this is no longer an epidemic. The numbers (of infected people) are just not there anymore. There are only a few thousand cases in the entire county. Many of these are very mild, or even occurring with vaccinated people who don't get very sick from Covid-19."
"Unlike the flu vaccines, which are not actually all that effective, the Covid vaccines are highly effective. Amazingly so. And at this point, everyone in Los Angeles County who wants them has already been vaccinated. The remaining population, a lot of them, have already had Covid anyway so they have immunity. I don't think there's any danger at all (of coronavirus getting out of hand in LA), and this current mask mandate is simply political."
"Most of the unvaccinated population are members of certain communities. You know, if we had started this out by saying 'the vaccines are for white people only. We're not going to waste them on black people.' We would've been called racists and rightly so. There would've been protesters in the streets, demanding that minorities receive vaccinations."
"Instead, the medical community, myself included, has done everything it can to convince people to get vaccinated. Yet, some members of certain communities have refused. So maybe we approached it the wrong way," he said tongue in cheek.
Will this tear through the population again, like they feared last year? I asked. "No way." he said. "50% of adults in LA County are vaccinated, approximately. Half the rest have already had covid, or have immunity. The potential is simply not there for this to become a big problem."
He says that Covid first of all was never more serious than a bad flu, say the Hong Kong flu in 1968. "This was a severe over-reaction. The original reaction to novel coronavirus was unnecessary, but we didn't know any better. All along, decisions have been made by political people rather than by doctors or scientists, and they make very little sense. Especially now, when the hospitals are empty. LA county has just a few deaths a day from Covid; fewer than it does from car accidents. Only 452 patients are currently hospitalized with Covid. These are not huge numbers, in a population of 10,000,000 people."
"As with other diseases, Covid has pretty much only been a problem with certain groups of patients. Those with co-morbidities, especially diabetes, old age and obesity. And those patients always have problems with infectious diseases. They have problems with seasonal flu, for example."
“(As for the mask mandate), I don't even know what the goal is anymore. You're never going to completely eliminate this virus. Covid will be with us from now on, but we will manage it, as we manage influenza and other illnesses.”
“Not having a goal medically or scientifically makes this mask mandate seem political to me. If you ask me, it's time to end the nonsense and allow everyone to go back to school and to work. Without masks."