This week I was honored to be on the Ezra Klein Show hosted by the New York Times. We took a serious dive into the past 3.5 years: pandemic revisionism, masks, school closings, the politicization of public health, Sweden’s response, trade-offs in policy, and the tragedy of 1.2 million deaths. Basically, all the easy topics (just kidding).
I have struggled with listening to the recaps, from 2020. It still triggers such anxiety. I don’t even consider myself to have been much more than “present”, rather than front line, when seeing patients in the office setting, but I suppose it was, essentially. I could only mask, gown, change scrubs before going home, etc., and you know, it absolutely helped. I do recall during April 2020 shutdown needing to see someone in person who did not mention until sitting across from me, in their fabric mask, that they actually had a positive covid test in the hospital the day prior and was told it was a false positive. Whether we were at risk, or it was our children, spouses or elderly parents that we cared for, the fear was real. Really real.
I received, quite gratefully, a vaccine in 12/2020. Leap of faith, but after three months of lectures and education on all the vaccines from so many that I trusted- Dr Schaffner, Dr Hotez, Dr Offit, I trusted in all the data and wonderful thoughtful analysis. It was a game changer for us in medicine particularly, if not for so many.
I love both you and Ezra Klein. I will eagerly listen. But perhaps with a glass of wine in hand later this evening... it’s still raw for me thinking back on that time of the pandemic.
It really bugs me that people are so down on closing schools. I recall that, at that time, we hardly knew anything. Except that in previous pandemics, the old people and the young people were the usual victims. How could we know that kids would be okay! Just saying.
I am a great fan of the Ezra Klein show and of scientists who educate the public about Covid. But I was terribly disappointed with the acceptance of the premise at the start of the interview that Covid is over, based solely on death rates. It seems to me a more truthful answer is that we don’t know, perhaps the hypermutated BA 2.86 becomes highly transmissible. I was also very unhappy that long Covid was completely overlooked. If these important issues are not incorporated into every discussion regarding Covid, it supports behaviors of people that will spread Covid.
You were great! Answered the questions in a forthright manner and very humbly acknowledged the unknowns. Your recognition that science is about evolving knowledge is essential for those who want to relitigate the issue of school closings . Well done.
You did a masterful job of staying apolitical, even when asked essentially, "How many deaths could have been avoided?" To me that answer is quite clear -- with a thoughtful initial response by the administration, things would have been wildly different. Instead, the infected cruise ship was not permitted to dock for fear that the numbers would make trump look bad, we were told that there were 15 cases that would soon be zero, that it was a Chinese problem and that the Chinese had it fully under control, then we heard that we would all be back in church celebrating Easter in April 2020. The brilliant Jared Kushner next observed that blue states were being disporportionately hit and dubbed it a democratic disease, which ultimately morphed into a democratic hoax. Then we were forced fed Hydroxychloroquine, and led to believe that Medal of Honor recipient Anthony Fauci could not be trusted. Who could forget the look on Birx's face when she first heard about UV light and internal disinfectant? When you mention pandemic revisionism, all of these things, and their negative effects must never be forgotten.
I notice that you suggested weighing a couple NPIs, "we still do not know what works best to slow the spread of Covid-19 in terms of non-pharmaceutical interventions. For example, test and trace, or isolation, or quarantine, or indoor mask mandates, or closing venues." Is it simply unhelpful obsession of mine to think that you had a platform with DDW/EK and did not push ventilation much. You said, "So just getting that one dose is just not enough. Just not wearing a mask or not thinking about ventilation or not testing, just having a vaccine strategy is going to let the virus leak through for a certain amount of population." Indoor Air Quality and therefore ventilation seems primary and foundational and to be stressed much more than the psychologizing about how to me since it does not require convincing and coercing. Do you see that as misguided? I realize that DDW pushed you toward evaluating "human response" and toward psychologizing rather than toward public health analyzing. It's always interesting to hear your point of view, epidemiologicak, motherly, or human.
I look forward to listening to the podcast on my morning walk.
It's disappointing that, as a country, we cannot come together and understand "lessons learned" so we can do things better moving forward.
As far as "vaccine mandates" go, our country doesn't suffer from "revisionist thinking," it suffers from "DENIALIST thinking" - as in, vaccine mandates NEVER HAPPENED, nobody lost their job, nobody lost their paycheck, no student was prohibited from attending school, the CDC never said vaccines would stop infections and transmissions, no tennis star named Djokovic was denied entry in to the country so he could play in the US Open despite 2 cases of documented covid and natural immunity, etc - NONE OF THIS EVER HAPPENED.
It's a terrific show, Katelyn! And it's a model of the honest reflections all of us should be doing. thank you.
Can’t wait to listen.
It’s a different gear to speak off the cuff, I find writing a much better intellectual speed personally. I’m sure you did great 😊
Thank you! I listened to you on the NYT site, great job. I heard on the In the Bubble Andy Slavitt podcast that you will be on that podcast soon! Looking forward to it.
So wonderful to see your smiling face as well as listen to your experiences and reactions to the past 3.5 years of loss and medical uncertainties. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
He’s a fantastic interviewer and I look forward to listening…and learning.
I happened to read the interview transcript yesterday & give you BIG points for being able to wade thru DWW's overly-wordy, wandering questions! I avoid all his pieces/writing as he's not a clear writer/thinker (am sure mine is a minority opinion...but I used to be a writer/columnist also). So I can see why this was your most challenging interview! I noticed you most always agreed with him, but you gave much more succinct answers. Also, what Ryan McCormick said below about speaking off the cuff being much more difficult than writing is true....no time to think! Thanks for doing the interview!
Great show Katelyn! I’ve been following you since early on in the pandemic. Your responses to the questions in this interview were great. People want simple answers, but in a complicated world, the answers are rarely simple. You do a great job, both in this interview and on Substack, of breaking down the inevitable nuance into bite-sized, fact-based, chunks that most people can digest. Science communication at its best! Keep it up Katelyn! Thank you so much!
Thank you so much! I look forward to listening to this. Processing all of this trauma, loss, and complexity is very hard and very necessary. And I so admire you for doing it in the face of finding it scary. Always a sign of a good leader.
Thanks for doing that interview, Dr. J! New Yorker married to a Texan here, and Texas gave you the gift of how to listen?? Well dust mah boots off! That, and several other of your “but look at it this way”s really helped me see more nuance. This is only going to help when the next pandemic occurs. Thanks a million ‘til you’re better paid, as my German grandfather used to say ;)