As Vermont continues to experience few issues with COVID-19 during the summer months, some doctors are beginning to question the state’s continued commitment to lockdown strategies.
Dr. Richard Warmann specializes in chiropractic care in East Montpelier and has over 34 years of experience in medicine. In an interview with True North, he said there’s too much fear and politics in Vermont’s response to the coronavirus, which has one person hospitalized in the state and no deaths in more than a month.
“With COVID, we don’t understand all its ramifications and that produces a lot of fear,” he said. “I like to use the acronym for fear which is ‘false evidence appearing real,’ and the other acronym for fear is ‘failure to evaluate the appropriate response.’ And with COVID, I see a lot of that because you’ve got the changing of things and then you’ve got the political inter-reactions.”
Warmann said there have been strong negative impacts due to the shutdown of regular society.
“Basically what you are saying is normal social interaction in the past is now abnormal, and then what you are also saying is that person can hurt me so I have to stay away from that person,” he said. ” … Anything that produces stress or anxiety or distress in a human being will affect their immune system.”
Warmann is not the only doctor questioning Vermont’s response to the coronavirus.
Dr. Louis Meyers is running as a Democrat for Senate in Chittenden County. He said the restrictions on access to health care during the outbreak caused many patients with serious needs to delay treatments.
“I work at Rutland Regional, and as many hospitals were [empty], we were empty for three months,” he said. “Our hospital was empty. Our emergency room was practically empty. People were scared to come in. We know there were people with serious treatable medical conditions that were not getting care.”
According to Meyers, some women who were diagnosed with breast cancer had to postpone surgeries and other treatments because medical centers were instructed to prioritize coronavirus patients.
On Saturday, all Vermonters will have to wear masks in public places in which six feet of distance can’t be maintained. On this restriction, Warmann and Meyers have differing points of view.
“It’s more of a psychological concern that I have,” Warmann said. “Then all of a sudden you start making maskers and non-maskers, right? But the message is that that person over there can threaten my life, that that person is dangerous. If that permeates our culture, then we’re going to have big problems.”
Meyers, however, supports the governor’s mask mandate.
“While the masks might not be perfect, particularly if it’s not the right kind of mask and if it’s not worn properly, I think they are much more benefit than harm right now,” he said. “Right now we need to be using them as much as possible when we are in public.”
But businesses and families have suffered economically and personally due to government’s response to COVID-19. Meyers said the shutdown of small rural businesses may have gone too far.
“My feeling is that if we had to do it over again in Vermont I would have liked to have seen not a mandated closure of particularly some of the smaller businesses in the outlying areas,” he said. “I think that’s where a mandated mask comes in and physical distancing, because that’s basically what we’re doing now.”
Both doctors said that the pharmaceutical industry is having an influence on health policy and the direction of the country.
“They have a lot of money and weight, they are a big component of it,” Meyers said. He added that he’s concerned that the drug companies may charge too much for COVID-19 vaccines.
Warmann said the influence of the industry on health care is not good for the nation.
“The pharmaceutical industry has dominated our country to a very unhealthy extent,” he said.
Warmann expressed concern that available treatments of COVID are being overlooked because the medical establishment is focused solely on developing a vaccine.
“There are a lot of things out there to deal with this COVID thing, but they are not being addressed because people are looking for a vaccine,” he said. “And the chance of getting a good vaccine on this one is very, very, very low — extremely low.”
Warmann said one challenge with the vaccines is that viruses tend to mutate.
Meyers said he has hope that researchers will discover a good vaccine.
“I think we will have a vaccine. Whether it will be as effective as some, like the polio vaccine or the measles [vaccine], is questionable, because these are different viruses. But I do think it will be a big help,” he said.
Overall, Warmann said he’s concerned about the state’s approach.
“What does that tell you about our medical profession when the best thing they can tell you is to go hide in the basement and wear a mask?” he said. “If that’s not saying we’ve got a problem here, then I don’t know what does.”