Members of the medical community are in overwhelming agreement about COVID-19. Experts around the world consider the novel coronavirus to be an extraordinarily serious threat that's caused more than 1.5 million deaths worldwide, including over 300,000 in the United States. These mortality figures more than justify public-health measures such as wearing masks, maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet from others, and limiting social interactions, they say.
But there are exceptions to this thinking — and Dr. Brian Joondeph is arguably the most prominent in Denver, thanks to his growing media reach. In addition to regular appearances on radio programs, Joondeph has authored a blizzard of articles questioning fatality data, the effectiveness of facial coverings and plenty more for a wide range of conservative publications and news sites, including the Daily Caller, the Washington Examiner and Liberty Nation.
Typical is November 30's "The COVID Case Con Continues," an article published on the American Thinker website, in which Joondeph asserts that "saying someone with a positive COVID test is a 'case' is fraudulent. For comparison, blood glucose has an upper test limit of 140. Is everyone above that number a diabetic? Even if they just ate a doughnut or ice cream cone before testing? Or does it take more than a single blood glucose level before one is diagnosed with diabetes? Does a single elevated blood pressure test make one hypertensive? Certainly not."
But unlike deniers, Joondeph doesn't see COVID-19 as an outright hoax, in part because his wife was infected with the disease in March and became extremely ill; she still suffers from lingering effects many months later. Because her illness came so early in the pandemic, Joondeph wasn't tested to determine if he, too, contracted the novel coronavirus, but it's likely, since a subsequent examination found antibodies in his system. If he also caught the malady, however, he was asymptomatic.
"I don't know why some people get very sick and others don't," he admits. "But I'm certainly not denying it. I have colleagues, mentors, who have died from this. I know it's quite real — but I also know there are a lot of other diseases that are real, too. We have a flu season every year where anywhere between 30,000 and 80,000 Americans die, and this is a form of the flu. I'm not saying it's the same; every flu strain is different. But they're in the same category, and we're treating this one far differently than the way we treat the normal flu. We quarantine, we test, and we're not following precedent — and it's causing untold socioeconomic damage. That's what really bothers me."
Joondeph is a self-confessed news junkie who got interested in writing while obtaining a master's degree in health-care leadership at the University of Denver. "As a physician, I understand the scientific method in terms of making a hypothesis to explain observed events and doing experiments to prove or disprove," he says. "I noticed how that wasn't being done in climate science — that dodgy science was being pushed without proving the models work. And now I'm seeing that with COVID-19: fearmongering, shifting goalposts and not following the science, especially if the science is inconvenient to the political narrative. I'm not trying to be a bomb thrower. I'm just trying to give some perspective on what I see as people placing politics over science."
Not that Joondeph is allergic to infusing his own work with ideological invective. In the aforementioned American Thinker piece, he refers to President-elect Joe Biden as "Sleepy Joe" and "Dementia Joe," and refers to COVID-19 as the "Wuhan virus," a term some see as racist but which he feels is simply accurate, since the disease is believed to have originated in the Chinese city. Yet he doesn't think that he's letting personal politics color his views. "I'm just doing that to liven up the writing," he maintains. "I'm writing for a relatively conservative audience, not for the New York Times, so I like to keep the writing a little lighter and fun, and throw in things like that."
Like Scott Atlas, a radiology professor who became an advisor to the White House Coronavirus Task Force after advancing COVID-19 theories beloved by President Donald Trump (he recently resigned from the position), Joondeph isn't an infectious-disease specialist. Rather, he's an ophthalmologist and retinal surgeon for a large practice with multiple offices in the Denver metro area, with satellites in Frisco and Goodland, Kansas. But Joondeph doesn't feel this background should preclude him from weighing in on COVID-19. After all, he points out, "A college dropout with no medical training is a major force behind world vaccine policy. His name? Bill Gates."
And then there's Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's best-known voice regarding the virus. "Dr. Fauci is an academic and a researcher," Joondeph says. "There's nothing wrong with that, but he hasn't been in private practice seeing patients, as I have been, for thirty years. So I have a different perspective. Does that make one of us right and one of us wrong? No."
Adding that "it shouldn't disqualify someone if they don't have a certain credential," Joondeph cites a recent example in another realm: Trump, who "had never held political office before running for the presidency and winning it, which disqualified him in some people's eyes" — but not in his. Joondeph confirms, "I proudly voted for Donald Trump."
Joondeph feels the drug hydroxychloroquine was unfairly demonized because Trump touted it as a COVID-19 therapy (he still thinks it might help patients if used before symptoms get so bad they require hospitalization) and cites a Danish study suggesting that masks aren't as beneficial as advertised rather than the many reports that reach the opposite conclusion. He also brings up the widely misinterpreted Centers for Disease Control report from August that only 6 percent of people with COVID-19 who died had the disease listed as the cause on their death certificate to suggest that the casualty numbers are enormously exaggerated. "I have cited cases where somebody was shot and then tested positive for COVID-19, and when they died, they were listed as a COVID-19 death," he says.
The phrase Joondeph uses to sum up how the media handles COVID-19: "Figures don’t lie, but liars do figure."
Of course, virtually all of his colleagues see the virus very differently than Joondeph does. But he won't be cowed into silence. "This is what I've been observing," he concludes, "so I've been speaking up — and trying to do it in a thoughtful way."
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