As a Stanford pupil, I’ve appreciated the College’s unambiguous dedication to common, primary COVID-19 precautions. All through this pandemic, Stanford has relied on evidence-based recommendation from college consultants to prevent large outbreaks on campus and hold us protected from COVID. In a current e-mail concerning Stanford’s preparations for the autumn quarter, Provost Persis Drell summarized the College’s place, asserting, “We all know that the mix of vaccination, masks carrying and testing offers highly effective safety in opposition to COVID.” In the meantime, nonetheless, folks I care about deeply have been denied these protections and compelled again into unsafe colleges and workplaces. As a pupil, it has been discouraging to witness a number of Stanford associates repeatedly leveraging the College’s title via nationwide media appearances, coverage advising and expert-witness testimony to assault the identical measures being applied on our campus.
The one time that Stanford publicly acknowledged that an affiliate’s statements had been “inconsistent with the university’s approach” was in a Nov. 2020 response to Hoover Fellow and former White Home COVID-19 Advisor Scott Atlas’s tweet calling for the folks of Michigan to “stand up” in opposition to public well being interventions. The College clarified, “We help utilizing masks, social distancing, and conducting surveillance and diagnostic testing.” Sadly, “inconsistencies” between Stanford’s insurance policies and a few associates’ recommendation to the broader public have continued, which warrants additional examination.
Stanford was one of many first universities within the nation to require vaccines for students, faculty, and staff. For this observe, Professor Jay Bhattacharya singled out Stanford in an op-ed and characterised insurance policies like ours as “ill-advised” and “unethical.” He additionally suggested in opposition to vaccination for anybody who has had COVID, claiming (regardless of evidence on the contrary) that “it simply adds a risk, however small, without any benefit.” Bhattacharya offered affidavits echoing these claims in support of lawsuits in opposition to Michigan State University’s and George Mason University’s vaccine requirements, which mirror Stanford’s insurance policies. On the identical time, Bhattacharya recently cited Stanford’s vaccine requirement as a purpose he feels snug returning to in-person instruction this fall.
Furthermore, Bhattacharya and different Stanford associates have repeatedly unfold false and deceptive claims about vaccine security and efficacy. From his large platform on Twitter, Professor Michael Levitt has posited that vaccine-attributable deaths may be considerably underdetected, vaccines are a money-making scheme by huge pharma and that the vaccine’s main mechanism is the placebo effect (regardless of being vaccinated himself and sometimes praising the vaccine’s apparent effectiveness).
The night after the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine, Bhattacharya appeared on Fox News to say that the approval was too quick and that we lack ample information on security and efficacy of the vaccine. These statements are debunked by Stanford Healthcare and the Stanford Center for Health Education’s Digital Medic Initiative, which affirm the COVID vaccines are protected, efficient and well-researched. Certainly, Stanford Medication helped lead Part-3 trials for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and pediatric trials of the Pfizer vaccine. Disturbingly, the latter trial was attacked on Fox Information by Atlas, who baselessly accused researchers of violating medical ethics and characterised a scientific trial participant as “brainwashed” and “psychologically damaged.”
Stanford associates have additionally publicly attacked surveillance testing applications, whilst Stanford itself continues to conduct testing via an entrance testing program for arriving college students and a weekly testing requirement for all college students, college and workers. A current university-wide communication from directors introduced further testing necessities for non-students, explaining, “Our college management and medical professionals have concluded that community-wide surveillance testing will present a significant layer of safety.” The following day, Bhattacharya penned an article in a British tabloid criticizing such applications as “useless” and “actively harmful.” Beforehand, Levitt amplified claims that presymptomatic and asymptomatic transmission are negligible, counting on misinterpretations of others’ work and straight contradicting statements by the scientists concerned.
These claims have prolonged into coverage recommendation. In October of 2020, whereas Stanford offered free, voluntary testing for college, workers and postdocs, and required weekly surveillance testing for college kids, Atlas used his place inside the federal authorities to urge governments all through Florida to roll again their asymptomatic testing applications. Throughout a roundtable with Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, Levitt suggested against testing and contact tracing. Throughout the identical roundtable with DeSantis, Bhattacharya advised in opposition to requiring exams earlier than medical procedures. This Florida coverage was cited as a driver of unsafe working conditions that led to 35 nurses from a single hospital quitting. Against this, a COVID-19 take a look at is required earlier than most medical procedures at Stanford hospital.
Stanford’s stance on masks additionally diverges sharply from public statements and coverage guidances issued by these Stanford associates. Stanford management has repeatedly affirmed that masks are efficient. In a current campus dialog, Faculty of Medication Dean Lloyd Minor stated that the “chance of transmission is dramatically lowered in a masked atmosphere.” Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne additionally has clarified Stanford’s stance: “we consider, based mostly on science-informed public well being steerage, that they do inhibit the unfold of the virus.” A brand new randomized trial led by Stanford researchers found “robust proof that masks carrying can interrupt the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.”
In the meantime, a collection of tweets by Atlas — opening with, “Masks work? NO!” — had been faraway from Twitter for misinformation. Levitt mused on Twitter about whether masks can induce hypoxia and shared a examine — which has been retracted — that claimed masks enhance carbon dioxide inhalation. By the way, upon that examine’s publication, Bhattacharya appeared on Fox Information to debate this examine as proof of risks to kids, likening masks to “child abuse.” These feedback had been by no means revisited after the paper’s retraction weeks later, and these claims contradict statements by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control.
As of Aug. 2, Stanford is under an indoor mask mandate issued by the county that applies to everybody over the age of two. Santa Clara County Public Well being reinstated this indoor masks mandate because the “least disruptive and most immediately impactful additional measure” to forestall the unfold of COVID-19. In a city corridor with Governor DeSantis that was removed from Youtube for spreading medical misinformation in regards to the efficacy of masks, Bhattacharya claimed, “masks not only have not been effective, but have been harmful.” He reiterated this declare in a follow-up piece for the Wall Road Journal, claiming the “advantages of masking kids are small to none; the prices are a lot larger.” He affirmed this stance as soon as once more in a July city corridor with DeSantis, stating it’s, “on net, not a good idea to mask children.” He additional claimed that the Delta variant “does not change the calculus” on whether or not to require masks, even whereas Stanford’s communication on reinstating face coverings invoked the necessity to “minimize the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant” in mild of an uptick in hospitalizations related to this variant. Later that week, DeSantis handed an executive order blocking colleges from mandating masks. Bhattacharya served as an knowledgeable witness for the protection within the ensuing lawsuit by mother and father combating this govt order, testifying that “the marginal benefit of masks … is very close to zero.”
Analysis on bettering and critically evaluating present public well being measures is significant, and Stanford college members have undertaken very important work to develop protected and reasonably priced protocols for manufacturing and reusing masks, to examine potential different methods for vaccine allocation and to study the efficiency of speedy, at-home COVID-19 testing kits. The Stanford associates talked about above, nonetheless, have often bypassed the realm of scientific exploration and peer evaluate to carry fringe positions on to nationwide media and policymakers. A decide in Florida not too long ago noted that the proof introduced within the masks mandate ban case by the protection, which featured Bhattacharya as its sole scientific knowledgeable witness, “displays a minority, even perhaps a small minority of medical and scientific opinion.” As official College communications have stated, the mix of testing, masks and vaccinations are permitting us at Stanford to maneuver safely ahead with in-person actions and carry different social distancing measures like enterprise closures and distant schooling (measures that the identical associates have strongly criticized and opposed).
College associates can, and infrequently even ought to, disagree with their establishment’s insurance policies. Certainly, members of our neighborhood have repeatedly organized for modifications to Stanford’s insurance policies, advocating for revisions to the campus compact to protect survivors of sexual violence and prevent students from being evicted, protesting an inequitable vaccine priorization algorithm, raising concerns about move-in policies, advocating for greater protections for campus workers, critiquing the hasty nature of this winter’s cancellation of in-person activities for undergraduates and striking for enhanced COVID protections for resident assistants. It is very important word that these different efforts have been characterised by direct, public dialogue with Stanford College management in efforts to make their insurance policies higher. However, except a single article mentioning Stanford’s vaccine mandate in a listing together with different universities, Bhattacharya, Atlas and Levitt haven’t engaged with Stanford’s masking, testing or vaccination measures.
As a substitute, they’ve used cable information, podcast appearances and social media to inform folks outdoors the College that such public well being measures are ill-advised. They usually have gone to authorities officers elsewhere, most notably in Florida, to push them to strike down insurance policies that align with Stanford’s. Particularly from inside the confines of a rich, elite college, there’s a disconnect between staying silent about public well being measures — and defending your self — whereas concurrently critiquing those self same measures — from which others stand to learn. Certainly, DeSantis himself famous this discrepancy final fall throughout a roundtable and prolonged a proposal to Bhattacharya and Levitt that was declined: “in case you guys actually wish to have in-person, we’d undoubtedly be capable to discover spots for you in Florida.”
Masking, vaccination and testing necessities should not controversial at Stanford. As a current e-mail from College management famous, the College neighborhood has overwhelmingly adopted primary well being protocols. 95% of individuals utilizing the self-reporting software required for on-campus exercise have been vaccinated, and “individuals on campus have been taking requirements for face coverings seriously.” As a Stanford pupil, I’m immensely privileged to have entry to great sources and a supportive neighborhood who’ve helped hold me protected all through this pandemic. I acknowledge the large sacrifices our native healthcare staff have revamped the previous yr and a half, and I hear their calls for continued caution.
I’m grateful to be surrounded by individuals who perceive the significance of common security precautions to guard each other. In flip, for the previous yr and a half, I’ve fastidiously adopted public well being suggestions and College tips to guard these round me, together with the folks talked about right here — whilst they work to undo these protections for others.