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Controversy over two CA doctors' push to lift shelter-in-place order

General view of downtown San Diego
Posted at 6:03 PM, Apr 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-27 23:28:00-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – There’s growing criticism over two California doctors who've gone viral for their controversial push to lift the shelter-in-place order. On Monday, 10News interviewed a prominent pathologist who says their science is flawed.

Dr. Dan Erickson and Dr. Artin Massihi are the co-owners of an urgent care practice in Kern County.

They've recently gotten media attention for claiming in part that isolation is not necessary and may hurt your body's immune system. Their message has been shared millions of times.

Dr. Erickson told reporters: “Do we need to still shelter-in-place? Our answer is emphatically ‘no’. Do we need businesses to be shut down? Emphatically ‘no’. Do we need to test them and get them back to work? ‘Yes, we do.’’’

In a press conference, he said that out of roughly 5,000 local patients tested for the coronavirus, a few hundred were positive, or, about 7% of local population, indicating a widespread infection similar to the flu.

“It's an error of logic,” said Dr. Jennifer Kasten, a practicing pathologist with a master’s degree in infectious disease epidemiology. 10News spoke to her via Zoom on Monday afternoon. Her social media response to the doctors’ claims has now been shared thousands of times. She said there's selection bias in their calculation of prevalence, meaning that the sample is not representative of the population at large.

“In the case of an urgent care, who comes to get tested for COVID? It's people who are sick [and] who are symptomatic [and] who are saying, ‘Gosh, I wonder if I have COVID. Let me go get tested.’ You have a higher chance of finding positive people in your test sample than you do in the community at large,” she added.

Dr. Erickson also claimed that social distancing could be a health hazard. “We understand microbiology. We understand immunology and we want strong immune systems. I don't want to hide in my home, develop a weak immune system and then come out and get disease,” he told reporters.

10News asked Dr. Kasten if there’s any truth to losing immunity from self-isolation.

“Fortunately none whatsoever, which is great news for all of us and the reason is that the world and our bodies are coated with microbes. There are literally trillions of microbes on your skin alone,” she told 10News, adding, “You are coming into contact with countless microbes and your immune system is handling dispatching them all.”

When asked about whether she finds the doctors’ bold statements to be dangerous, she responded, “I think it adds to disinformation. It adds to confusion. It makes people feel like there are competing narratives and they aren't sure who to trust.”

Late Monday, Dr. Erickson told 10News in part that he still stands behind his statements and he's been in touch with health experts from around the world who are validating his research.