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Open letter to MPP Randy Hillier from local physicians

The following is an open letter from local physician Jeanette Dietrich, MD, CCFP, to Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston MPP Randy Hillier. The letter, dated Dec. 18, 2020, was originally co-signed by 41 local physicians. As of the date of this publication, an additional 52 physicians, both local and from across the country, have signed in support of the letter. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of The Kingstonist.

Dear Mr. Hillier:

As a physician who both lives and works in this region, I must express my dismay at your recent attendance at rallies protesting the use of public health measures in the fight against COVID-19. I have viewed the video on your website where you purport to, “Stick to the proof and not the propaganda, (Hillier, 2020)” yet it is filled with misinformation.

You imply that COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV2 is not much worse than the common cold by saying, “Why are so many people living in, with such concern, in such dread and taking such precautions for something, for a virus, a coronavirus, that is more like the common cold than it isn’t.” You state the infection fatality rate is “very similar to the flu.” (Hillier, 2020) You put a link to an article that explains how coronaviruses can be mild and cause the common cold but there are also deadly ones such as SARS and MERS. The article states “In December 2019, another virus joined these dangerous cousins. Scientists are calling it SARS-CoV2 (Hesman Saey, 2020).” Yet you label this article “Common Cold can be coronavirus” which in no way reflects its contents.

COVID-19 has a more serious spectrum of disease than both the common cold and the flu. According to IPAC Canada every year the flu causes approximately 1 billion infections and 290,000 to 650,000 deaths world-wide. In Canada approximately 3,500 people die from flu every year. (Infection Prevention and Control Canada, n.d.) Based on the latest Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Case count as of December 17 there have been about 74.9 million cases globally and 1.66 million deaths and 13,919 deaths in Canada (Johns Hopkins University, 2020), far exceeding a typical year for death from the flu, and the year is not over.

You also fail to appreciate that there are unpleasant outcomes other than death. A study in US Veteran’s Affairs hospitals compared 5,453 hospitalized patients with influenza to 3,948 hospitalized patients with COVID-19. The mortality rate was approximately 5 times higher in COVID-19 patients compared to those with the flu. The risk for acute respiratory distress syndrome (which often leads to intubation) was 19 times higher for those with COVID-19. The risk for a variety of individual complications (heart inflammation, blood clots in the legs or other veins, blood clots in the lungs, brain bleeds, liver failure, bacteria in the blood stream and pressure ulcers) were each 2-3 times higher in COVID-19 patients. COVID-19 patients spent on average three times as long in hospital as influenza patients (Cates, et al., 2020). Also, increasing reports are coming out regarding the presence of long-lasting symptoms from COVID-19. A survey of 143 Italian patients found that 2 months after hospitalization only 12.6% were symptom free (Langreth & Court, 2020). Among 965 survivors in South Korea, 91% had long-term symptoms after recovery from COVID-19 (Mack, 2020)

Mr. Hillier, you also state that, “The world’s top health experts and scientists have demonstrated beyond a doubt that the PCR test is false and faulty.” “Often, people if you’ve had a cold within the last 6 months your test with the PCR will come back positive. That is a known fact (Hillier, 2020).” You reference a Youtube video by Dr. Michael Yeadon (Yeadon, 2020) and an article quoting Dr. Carl Heneghan (Mahase, 2020). The comment about a positive PCR happening from a cold 6 months ago came from the interviewer making that statement in the Youtube video, not the scientist. It is correct that the PCR test will detect pieces of viral RNA which may not have infectious potential. The PCR test is specific to SARS-CoV2, the agent that causes COVID-19, not other viruses that cause the common cold and the CDC has stated that swabs may remain positive for up to 3 months after infection (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020), not 6 months.

Both the scientists you reference were discussing the situation in the UK in September when many asymptomatic people were being tested and case counts were rising but deaths were not. The concern was that as with any test, when you test people with a lower likelihood of disease a greater percentage of positives may be false positives. This is not an argument that PCR testing is false, it means that you need to understand the nuances of testing. Dr. Heneghan was arguing that contact tracing should be based on positive tests, but restrictive measures should be based on hospital admissions and symptomatic cases. In Ontario we have seen rising cases followed by rising hospitalizations, long-term care outbreaks, ICU admissions and deaths (Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2020). Clearly, we have an increasing COVID-19 outbreak, not just faulty tests. On November 17 you challenged Christine Elliott and stated the government was over-reacting to the 127 ICU patients on that date. Modelling has shown that once we surpass 150 ICU patients it becomes challenging to continue with regular hospital care such as heart or cancer surgeries. At 350 ICU patients then it becomes impossible (Katawazi, 2020). On December 17, after a month we now have 263 ICU patients (Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2020), yet you still argue against lockdowns and masks. You fail to understand that if we wait until hospitals are overwhelmed it is too late.

You end your video by stating, “We know the average age for people who have died with COVID-19, and I state that specifically with COVID-19, is over the age of 80, be, um, (sic) in most jurisdictions between 70 and 80% of all COVID-19 related deaths have happened in long-term care homes or nursing homes. COVID-19 to me on examination of all the proof and rejecting of the propaganda tells me we should lead normal lives with full freedoms and have our responsibilities to exercise our own judgement re-instated and defended (Hillier, 2020).” Unfortunately, this infection does not just stay in one segment of the population. It is rising in all age groups and has entered nursing homes again (Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2020). If you and your followers exercise your so-called “freedoms” it will drive infection rates which will lead to more hospitalizations, deaths, disability, and postponed surgeries. I would like to remind you that you are paid to represent all your constituents, including those who are vulnerable due to age, occupation, underlying conditions, or other factors. Instead of spending time fighting against public health measures to contain COVID- 19, you could put your energy into something useful such as economic, social, and mental health supports to help the local population get through this difficult time.

While I recognize that it is legitimate to debate the relative risks and benefits of lockdowns, that debate must be based on valid representations of the effects of COVID-19. You are spreading misinformation that minimizes the seriousness of COVID-19 to support your personal anti- lockdown and anti-mask beliefs. You misuse scientific references to give your stance an appearance of being scientific. I urge the public to ignore you and heed the advice of trained health care professionals. Continue to practice social distancing, wear masks, and keep everyone safe.

Sincerely,

Jeanette Dietrich, MD, CCFP

The following physicians originally signed this letter in support:

  • Doug Alkenbrack, MD
  • Mamdouh Andrawis, MD, CCFP, FCFP
  • Kristen Church, MD, CCFP
  • Sandra Cowan, MD
  • Peter Cunniffe, MD, CCFP, FCFP
  • Daniel Curran, MD, CCFP(EM)
  • Alan Drummond, MD, CCFP(EM), FCFP
  • Matt Dumas, MD, CCFP
  • Chandra Eberhard, MD, CCFP
  • Taylor Ferrier, MD, CCFP
  • Alain Gauthier, MD, CCFP(FPA), FCFP
  • Sabra Gibbens, MD, CCFP
  • Crystal Gonu, MD, CCFP
  • Joy Hataley, MD, CCFP(FPA), FCFP
  • Graeme Hendry, MD, CCFP, FCFP
  • Kalyan Hota, MD, CCFP
  • Steven Ingo, MD, MCFP
  • Peter Jechel, MD, CCFP(EM), FCFP
  • Anil Kuchinad, MD, CCFP
  • Robin Kennie, MD, CCFP, FCFP
  • Catherine Koester, MD, CCFP
  • Christine Last, MD, CCFP
  • Shawn Yow-Wah Liu, MD, CCFP
  • Ian Laing McFadzean, MD
  • Aaron McGregor, MD, CCFP
  • Craig Mitchell, MD, CCFP
  • Kim Morrison, MD, CCFP, FCFP
  • Johnathan Moulton, MD, CCFP
  • Sonal Patel, MD, CCFP
  • Stephanie Popiel, MC, CCFP, FCFP
  • John Raleigh, MD, CCFP(EM), FCFP
  • Cory Scott, MD, CCFP
  • Richard Peter Seaby, MD, CCFP
  • Mahysin Siyih, MD, CCFP
  • James Simpson, MD, CCFP
  • Jeffrey Sloan, MD, CCFP, FCFP
  • Elizabeth Touzel, MD, CCFP, FCFP
  • Thomas Touzel, MD, CCFP
  • Boudewijn (Bob) Van Noppen, MD, CCFP
  • Leigh Wahay, MD, CCFP, FCFP
  • Meng Ying Xu, MD, CCFP

Additional signatories to received after December 18, 2020 Within Kingston-Frontenac- Lennox and Addington or Leeds-Grenville- Lanark District Health Units

  • Karen Turcotte, MD, CCFP
  • Siobhán Muldowney MD, CCFP, FCFP
  • Daniel Glatt, MD, CCFP
  • Marcus Lai, MD, CCFP
  • Christine Tai, BMBS, CCFP(PC)
  • Julie Stewardson, MD, CCFP
  • Megan Argue, MD, CCFP
  • Christine Nadeau, MDCM, CCFP, FPA
  • Annelise Miller, MDCM, CCFP
  • Elizabeth Shouldice MD, CCFP(EM), FCFP
  • Nancy Moxon, MD
  • Valerie McLeod, MD, CCFP(FPA)
  • Tara McGregor, MD, MSc, CCFP
  • Jennifer Lynch, MD, CCFP
  • Kerry Howatt, MD, FRCSC
  • Emily Kay, MD, FRCPC
  • Robyn Brown, MD, CCFP

Physicians from other Public Health Units in support

  • Kamila Premji, MD, CCFP, FCFP
  • Anne-Marie Auclair, MD, CCFP
  • Tracy Wong, MD, CCFP
  • Anne-Marie Pelletier, MD, CCFP
  • Tonja Stothart MD CFPC FCFP
  • Lesia Kozyra, MD, CCFP(EM)
  • Laura Clark, Md, CCFP
  • Jennifer Wilson, MD, FRCPC
  • Kristi Locke-Robinson, MD, CCFP
  • Dominique Desmarais, MD, CCFP
  • Blair Cappel, MD, CCFP
  • Michelle, Cohen, MD, CCFP
  • Kim Torok, MD, CCFP
  • Deidre Young, MDCM, CCFP, FCFP
  • Melanie, Md, FRCPC
  • Sandra, Landolt, MD, FRCPC
  • Horace Yu, MD, CCFP(EM)
  • Anne McDonald, MD, CCFP
  • Lana Myroniuk, MD, CCFP
  • Alexandra Bojcevski, MD, FRCPC
  • Jessica Hunter-Orange, MD, CCFP, FCFP
  • Heather Warren, MD, FRCPC
  • Ruby Alvi, MD, CCFP
  • Michelle Scheepers, MBCHB, MD, FRCPC
  • Deepa Soni, MD, CCFP(EM)
  • Keltie Duggan, MD, CCFP
  • Christine Kurz, MD, FRCSC
  • Harkamal Randhawa, MD, FRCPC
  • Rachael Craggs, MD
  • Natalie Slaney, MD, CCFP
  • Jillian Lusina, MD, CCFP
  • Terry Suggit, Md, CCFP
  • Allison Ye, MD, FRCPC
  • Lisa Scott, MD, CCFP
  • Michelle Bartens, MSc, MD, CCFP

References

Boudewijn (Bob) Van Noppen, MD, CCFP Leigh Wahay, MD, CCFP, FCFP
Meng Ying Xu, MD, CCFP

Cates, J., Lucero-Obusan, C., Dahl, R. M., Schirmer, P., Garg, S., Oda, G., . . . Cardemil, C. V. (2020, October 23). Risk for In-Hospital Complications Associated with COVID-19 and Influenza – Veterans Health Administration, United States, October 1, 2018-May 31, 2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), pp. 1528-1534.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, October 19). Duration of Isolation and Precautions for Adults with COVID-19. Retrieved from Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID- 19): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/duration-isolation.html

Hesman Saey, T. (2020, February 25). Explainer: What is a coronoavirus? Retrieved from Science News for Students: https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/explainer-what-is-a- coronavirus

Hillier, R. (2020, November 18). (Video) What is COVID? Retrieved from https://www.randyhilliermpp.com/20201118_whatiscovid

Infection Prevention and Control Canada. (n.d.). Seasonal Influenza, Avian Influenza and Pandemic Influenza. Retrieved from ipac-canada.org: https://ipac-canada.org/influenza- resources.php

Johns Hopkins University. (2020, December 1). Global Map. Retrieved from Coronavirus Resource Center: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

Katawazi, M. (2020, November 19). Ontario hits 150 COVID-19 patient threshold in ICU raising concerns around other hospital care. Retrieved from CTV News: https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-hits-150-covid-19-patient-threshold-in-icu-raising- concerns-around-other-hospital-care-1.5195799

Langreth, R., & Court, E. (2020, August 26). Brain Deficits, Nerve Pain Can Torment Covid Patients for Months. Bloomberg. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020- 08-26/brain-deficits-nerve-pain-as-covid-torments-infected-for-months

Mack, Z. (2020, September 30). Best Life: 91 Percent of COVID Survivors Have This in Common, Study Says. Retrieved from Microsoft News: https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/91- percent-of-covid-survivors-have-this-in-common-study-says/ar-BB19yiqi

Mahase, E. (2020). Covid-19: the problems with case counting. BMJ, 370, m3374. doi:10.1136

Queen’s Printer for Ontario. (2020, December 1). COVID-19 (coronavirus in Ontario. Retrieved from COVID-19: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/

Yeadon, M. (2020, 09 17). Government are using a Covid-19 test with undeclared false positive rates. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch7wze46md0

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5 thoughts on “Open letter to MPP Randy Hillier from local physicians

  • December 20, 2020 at 11:18 am
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    Thank you for the well-written, researched and factual rebuttal to Hillier’s message which was full of misinformation. We need that kind of talk in these days of fake news/conspiracy theories/lies. The sad thing is that his position of authority/trust gives him a podium for his nonsense that endangers more people. It’s based on a libertarian ideology and ideology never managed a pandemic (note the failure of Trump’s, Ford’s and Kenney’s “business first” ideology)

  • December 20, 2020 at 11:59 am
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    I would like to express my agreement with my colleagues excellent response to Mr Hillier’s irresponsible words and actions.

    I would also like to sign in support.

    Mark Waldron, MD CCFP(EM)

  • December 20, 2020 at 1:59 pm
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    Excellent letter; well worth reading.
    Shocking to see an elected official (Hillier) spreading such misinformation along with his ill informed opinions.
    Thank-you for clarifying with accurate information.
    Hopefully your letter will help to prevent illnesses and deaths in our constituency.

  • January 25, 2021 at 12:05 pm
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    Comparative numbers, and sound references. Thank you!!

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