Remake RI DOH
Despite claims of her ‘resignation’, the more likely January firing of Nicole Alexander-Scott as Director of the RI Department of Health (RI DOH), quickly followed by the departure of her top capo, Thomas McCarthy, presents a major opportunity for Governor McKee to remake the crumbling health organization, which completely missed the target in implementing its narrow and failed approach to managing the Covid-19 pandemic. More departures are expected.
Despite the fawning media and political adoration for her health department, Alexander-Scott and her team perpetrated a great and moral dis-service on the people of Rhode Island. The question is whether or not Governor McKee has come fully around to this realization … and will seek a new direction for our state’s next health administration.
With a search team in place, the next Director for RI DOH must NOT be someone who will remake the organization in the same image as its departing executive team. The next health administration must be on mark in balancing public health needs with respect for individual and constitutional liberties; and must take a comprehensive, research-based approach to managing public health crises.
The failed agenda of the RI DOH completely missed the pandemic mark … this is now obvious to anyone who takes a candid look at what has transpired. Even many on the left and in the media, who, from the start of the pandemic have wanted to keep frenzied Ocean Staters huddled in the corner in the fetal position for the last two years, are finally coming around to a more rational response to managing the pandemic. The accelerating shift in their Covid-19 narrative is now unmistakable. But Governor McKee’s recent public statements do not make it appear as if he understands this.
The misguided mandate mania of RI DOH under Alexander-Scott did not begin with the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2015, ignoring the pleas of parents, Rhode Island became only state in the nation to require every 7th grade girl and boy be forced to take the controversial human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine as a condition of attending school, to fight against a virus that cannot be spread in schools, but can only be transmitted sexually.
Currently, the major failure of the RI DOH was not adopting a more comprehensive, scientific, and common sense approach to managing the Covid-19 pandemic; an approach based on historical knowledge and actual research data.
The arbitrarily restrictive and destructive one-size-fits-all policies put forth by the RI DOH and the Raimondo & McKee administrations have actually caused increased adverse health, social, and economic outcomes for Rhode Islanders. While a more comprehensive health approach was required for our state’s overall population, strict mandates and guidelines should have been reserved only for targeted communities … those at the most risk of severe illness or death.
As our understanding of the virus steadily grew, Alexander-Scott and her staff at RI DOH remained stuck in gear, mired by their fantastical belief that unproven, unprecedented, and non-science-based mandates and recommendations might somehow produce positive outcomes. It is now clear that her advice to Governors Raimondo and McKee was fatally flawed … literally.
Despite pointless claims by administration and health officials of some of the highest vaccination and testing rates among all states, the Covid-19 virus still raged in our Ocean State.
Zero Spread, really? Here’s most blatant example of their erroneous recommendations: How naive, how ignorant, how non-historical, how non-science-based must have been Alexander-Scotts’ advice to Governor Gina Raimondo in 2020 for Raimondo, just a few months into the pandemic, to publicly set the impossible and inconceivable goal of “zero spread” in Rhode Island. How completely foolish this goal looks now, hundreds of thousands of cases later, despite their many off-target efforts.
Not only did our state miss the mark in trying to achieve this absurd goal, but it was the wrong mark! Reducing severe illness and fatality should always have been the primary objective. Setting Rhode Island towards the wrong goal, originally, was the first major failure of the RI DOH.
The obsessive and intrusive testing regime designed to count cases was another major DOH failure, we now know, not to mention the futile and expensive process of contact tracing. Both practices have been largely abandoned in 2022 and have resulted in no public health impact.
The state of Florida stands in stark contrast, where its elected leaders and health officials actually showed some intellectual curiosity and put forth common sense policies based on an honest read of the data and a realistic understanding of what was possible and what was not. And while no public policy can stop the spread of any pandemic … in any state or in any country … we now know that properly targeted policies to the most vulnerable, combined with broad public education, can reduce severe illness and mortality, while allowing near-normal life among the healthy, thus limiting the economic and social suffering caused by futile government lockdowns and mandates.
Conversely, despite some of the most restrictive measures in America, Rhode Island consistently ranked among the worst states in terms of new Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths – and economic and financial loss. It is clear that the narrow and untested approach by the RI DOHwas a complete exercise in futility.
We also know with certainty that the vulnerability of severe outcomes to Covid-19 is almost non-existent in healthy young people and children, and has been less dangerous for them than the common flu. Yet it was our state’s youth who were most heavily targeted … via student mask, vaccine, testing, and quarantine mandates … by Alexander-Scott’s DOH.
Mask mandates, as were devised and implemented by the RI DOH, have proven to be completely ineffective. Again, recently, even the CDC has been forced to admit that cloth masks do not work. Without proper medical-grade respirators … and the proper wearing of such … the spread of the air-born viruses will not be curtailed. However, mandating a regimen of wearing these kinds of respirators for long periods of time necessarily raises certain other health risks, financial costs, and infringements on our freedoms … and should be carefully considered and vigorously debated in public before being forcefully imposed on any portion of our society.
Unintended deaths. The fear spread by the RI DOH combined with the negative impacts of a feeling of isolation of caused by lockdowns and masks, caused emotional stress on many. As one unintended consequence, more people turned to illegal drugs as a release, resulting in 2021 in the largest number of accidental drug overdose deaths in our state’s history.
Pandemic of the un-vaxed? To perpetuate its false narrative, and despite overwhelming data to the contrary, over and over again the RI DOH purposefully misled the public in late 2021 and early 2022 by stating that the we were suffering from a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Worldwide, nationally, and in our own state … the truth is that the percentage of “vaccinated” persons contracting Covid-19 was approaching or has surpassed 30% … and will likely grow significantly larger.
Relentlessly – and almost solely – the RI DOH pushed vaccines and healthcare worker “shot in the arm” mandates as society’s panacea, even after they proved ineffective at stopping the spread. Thousands of vital healthcare workers, once considered front-line or first-responder heroes, were unceremoniously forced to leave their jobs … or were summarily fired.
Then perhaps most incredibly, because of a healthcare staffing crisis that the government itself created, the RI DOH in January prioritized infected covid health care workers to be allowed to work, even as they denied far safer workers – infection-free and unvaccinated – like Dr. Stephen Skoly – their right to earn a living and to provide much needed care for patients.
The personally vengeful and oppressive actions by RI DOH to shut down Dr. Skoly’s praactice, who has two valid medical reasons for not becoming vaccinated against Covid-19, further demonstrate the illogical and arbitrary nature of the RI DOH under Alexander-Scott’s rule. This must not be allowed to happen again.
Indeed, the agenda-drive and narrowly-focused policies devised by Alexander-Scott and the RI DOH, dutifully enacted by two Governors, and without any apparent independent intellectual curiosity of their own, have produced devastating effects. To name a few:
- Keeping students out of school and forcing them to wear masks for 6-7 hours per day have caused “irreparable harm”, as a judge found in a recent RI Superior Court ruling
- Vaccine mandates have exacerbated the healthcare workforce crisis by forcing vitally needed doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to be laid-off or leave their jobs
- Because of RI DOH’s lockdown and mandate approach, there have been fewer cancer and other screenings, such as colonoscopies and mammograms, fewer follow-up appointments and procedures for cardiovascular and other conditions, resulting in untold deaths or other severe consequences
- Because of harsh RI DOH policies that stifled market and consumer economic activity, thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of workers have involuntarily suffered full or partial financial loss.
The RI DOH was also far too narrowly focused on vaccines, boosters, and testing, while almost completely ignoring the long-standing practice of early treatment and the medical ethic of informed consent.
It is unethical, before under-taking any medical procedure or treatment, that patients are not fully informed of the risks and benefits. Continually, Alexander-Scott inappropriately stated the indiscriminate need for universal vaccination among all age groups and over-hyped the benefits of vaccines, while failing to publicly acknowledge any of the documented risks, harms, and fatalities that have befallen hundreds of thousands of Americans from various adverse reactions to vaccinations and masking.
Parental Rights Usurped. In the spring of 2021, in its zeal to indiscriminately vaccinate high schoolers, the RI DOH declared that minors over the age of 16 were medically emancipated from their parents, and no longer required parental consent to the get the “emergency” jab.
Compounding its tyranny, the RI DOH failed to allow medical and religious exemptions to forced-vaccination that have been morally required and constitutionally protected for decades. The extremely limited exemptions allowed by RI DOH meant that thousands of Rhode Islanders with certain medical histories were forced to put their personal health at risk if they felt compelled to get the jab in order to preserve their careers: A “jabs for jobs” mandate is not what Americans should ever be forced to tolerate.
And the malpractice continued. Alexander-Scott and the RI DOH were derelict in their persistent denial of the broad benefits of naturally acquired immunity among the previously infected, a fact now openly admitted by the CDC … and a fact that has been universally accepted throughout history … but not by Rhode Island health officials. It was known early on, but ignored by the RI DOH, that the vaccines only targeted COVID’s spike protein, whereas natural immunity recognizes the whole of the virus, including the nucleocapsid protein that envelops the RNA core … meaning that there was always a better antibody response from natural immunity as compared with the vaccines. But Alender-Scott and her team would never inform the RI public of this scientific fact.
Vindictive Tyranny. Specifically, in a irrational and arbitrary move in late 2021, the RI DOH, under Alexander-Scott’s direction, refused to grant a vaccine medial exemption to Dr. Stephen Skoly, a Cranston oral and maxillo-facial surgeon, who not only was immune from his prior Covid-19 infection, but also previously suffered from Bell’s Palsy … a condition know to be occasionally exacerbated by the vaccine. My sources inform me that Dr. Skoly was being singled out because of his affiliation as Chairman of the “conservative organization” … our RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.
Further, Alexander-Scott and the RI DOH did not sufficiently promote the use of therapeutics, especially early in the infection timeline, to reduce the likelihood of severe illness in those who suffered from the virus. As one major example, Monoclonal Antibody (MAB) therapy has been shown to reduce severe illness, hospitalization, and death by 70% in high-risk patients who have contracted COVID-19. In states such as Florida, which has established MAB treatment sites across the state, MAB treatments are free, regardless of vaccination status, without a prescription. The RI DOH has done virtually nothing to promote this vital MAB treatment regimen, including Regeneron treatments, which can provide temporary immunity for those who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
It has also been clear since the early days of the pandemic, that certain off-label medications proved effective in mitigating the rate of contraction or the severity of symptoms of Covid-19. But Scott and her team, beholden to the woke-left narrative and its mindless critique of such longtime prescribed and safe drugs, routinely dismissed any other path but vaccines and masks.
The lack of transparency in the RI DOH and administration’s managing of this pandemic has been equally alarming. Policies, guidelines, projections, and mandates were consistently put forth without sufficient supporting scientific-research citations; nor was there any meaningful public debate or scrutiny of proposed mitigation policies.
For over a year, public requests have been made for more granular information to be made public. Examples of such data sets include age, co-morbidity, history of prior infection and vaccination status breakdowns for both hospitalizations and fatalities; Cycle-Threshold (or CT) values from PCR tests; and the rates of incidental vs primary causes of hospitalizations for those generally categorized with Covid. In January, Massachusetts, New York, and Florida started reporting breakdowns of the “cause of hospitalization” data set. But Alexander-Scott refused to follow suit – this may have been the final straw for McKee – and the beginning of the crumbling of the RI DOH.
The grossly misguided hospitalization projections during the early days of the original strain of the virus, then again at the onset Delta variant, were so far off mark – by a factor of six to ten – that RI DOH was either completely incompetent … or purposefully deceptive by conducting an overt fear-mongering campaign in order to justify oppressive policies that we now know were based on fake figures.
It goes against longstanding and widely accepted tenets of medical practice that an “all of the above” approach was not undertaken by Rhode Island health officials during this pandemic. A more comprehensive strategy, that balances the risks and benefits and more properly targets the most vulnerable, would allow those who are minimal risk, at their own discretion, to opt to live their lives as they wish. Adopting more aggressive measures to protect those at most risk should have been the primary and original goal of the public health response to Covid-19.
As a result of these multiple shortcomings and mis-calculations, Governor McKee must step back for a moment and think about what he hopes to accomplish in naming a replacement for Nicole Alexander-Scott. For all the reasons discussed herein, she had to be fired. But that does not mean that a clone should replace her.
As I have often recently and cynically stated, Dan McKee has been acting less like a Governor, exhibiting leadership … and more like the official spokesperson for the RI DOH, dutifully following and publicly announcing every recommendation that Alexander-Scott’s compromised team recommended. It’s now time for Dan McKee to perform the role of a true Governor; honestly evaluating what has actually happened in our state, putting a full measure of critical thought into his decisions, and setting forth a strategy for a department of health that will not make the same brutal mistakes of repeated self-inflicted wounds on the people of our state.
Ocean Staters can enjoyed greater health protections and prosperity if the next Director and administration at the RI Department of Health might strive to work as open-minded public servants who vow to under-take a truly comprehensive, science-based, and transparent strategy to combatting this and any other future health crisis … a strategy that will be far more “on mark”, effective, and appropriate for a free society.