Medical science isn’t as complicated as political science, but on Friday, an association of Alaska pediatricians waded on into the political deep end of the Covid mask debate when they wrote a letter opposing Anchorage Chief Medical Officer Michael Savitt, MD.
Savitt was hired by Mayor Dave Bronson when he took office in July.
The letter was leaked to the mainstream by an unknown member of the Assembly.
In it, the group, which endorses the masking of children in schools, said that many children have lost their parents or guardians to Covid, and 65 percent of those were racial or ethnic minorities.
The pediatricians then went on to say that many people in the Assembly chambers who choose to go unmasked, and that the community at large is generally not masked, which is why a mandate is important.
“When ALL are wearing masks due to the source control provided to INFECTIOUS individuals. It is precisely this point that compelled the Assembly to take the action they did on the night you spoke; choosing to wear a mask is a courtesy to others, but does not fully protect the wearer.”
Dr. Savitt is a board-certified pediatrician who is licensed in 5 states — Alaska, New Mexico, Arizona, New Jersey, and New York. He has years of experience with infectious diseases and has a background in bioethics and patients rights, serving as chair of the Patient Rights and Bioethics at the Ocean Medical Center in New Jersey, medical staff president, and chairman of the credentials committee at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, NM.
“Finally, we feel we must articulate our grave concerns about the objectivity of your testimony. You, in your official capacity as Chief Medical Officer of the Anchorage Health Department, provided the factually dubious statements summarized above at the behest of an assembly member, in essence testifying AGAINST one of the very public health health interventions that you have previously stated you support; masks as a bridge to high rates of vaccination in the community. Our understanding, having listened to your testimony, is that you now DO NOT think that all Anchorage residents should be masking in public spaces, despite contrary guidance from the Chief Medical Officer for the State of Alaska and the CDC,” the doctors wrote.
“As your colleagues and peers, as well as concerned citizens of this city, we no longer feel that you demonstrate the ability to accurately and objectively advocate for the public welfare of the residents of this community. The actions of this administration suggest that either your advice has been contrary to public health best practices, or that your advice has gone totally unheeded. Either way, we ask that you consider whether your role is truly adding to the fight against our common enemy: the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The doctors were responding to remarks made to the Assembly on Tuesday, when Savitt was asked his opinion of the state of the pandemic. He stated that many people already wear masks, and that it is not necessary to mandate them.
“The numbers have trended downward. The positivity rate of 12 percent is because less are being tested. When you test more and the denominator comes back up again, that positivity rate will drop,” Savitt said. Other relevant numbers have been trending downward, he said.
“We are not out of a pandemic but we are moving very close to that number of 1.0 which makes it an endemic,” he said. “The point is we have trended downward for a month now without a mask mandate.”
“I would remind you all that the Anchorage school district has a mask mandate for their students,” Savitt said, reminding the Assembly that several students had come before them to complain about the mandate. “However, their active case count was 448 as opposed to our 181.
“So I’m not quite sure the masks are actually helping, at least where the school is concerned,” Savitt said. He also reminded the Assembly that their cloth masks were doing nothing to combat this virus, and that only a medically fitted N95 mask would be considered somewhat protective.
That’s when Assemblyman Kameron Perez-Verdia told Savitt to stick to “solely his medical advice, not his political advice.”
The pediatricians’ letter complained at length about Savitt’s remarks pertaining to the schools and compulsory masking of Anchorage, and said he was either incompetent or spreading disinformation.
The American Association of Pediatricians is no stranger to controversy and is known for supporting the liberal side of cultural questions. It has come out against separate girls and boys bathrooms, specifically the South Carolina bathroom bill that prevented boys from using girls’ bathrooms and vice versa. The group believes children should use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.
As for Savitt, he has never been in favor of mandates. Before he was confirmed by the Assembly, he made it known he would not be recommending mandates. They confirmed him anyway.
Savitt responded to the attack on Friday afternoon:
“I am disappointed in the AAP’s attack on my character and ability to perform my duties as the Chief Medical Officer for the Municipality of Anchorage. They are upset with me for not supporting a mask mandate as they previously requested. My responses when asked by Anchorage Assembly members were factual and based on State of Alaska data. I have gone on record numerous times supporting vaccinations and CDC recommendations which includes proper use of masks, hand hygiene, hand washing, social distancing, and proper room ventilation. I am also personally vaccinated and I am awaiting the Moderna booster. Of the four non-pharmacological mitigation strategies, I am on record numerous times saying that you can’t just pick one. You must use all four,” Savitt said.
“When asked about the numbers trending downward, by the Anchorage Assembly, my response was factual and based on the same numbers that I report to them weekly. I informed them that the 14 day rolling average and reproduction number were trending downward and I was cautiously optimistic. I further stated that COVID appears to be on a two month cycle in some places in lower 48 and other countries and we may be following that or we may be following the UK that has seen peaks and troughs to their curve rather than their downward trend. I said our reported numbers will appear to be better than they were. The DHSS has said that their numbers are problematic due to the way they are reported. I referred to the Anchorage School District with their mask mandate and their active and total case numbers. I did not comment on the effectiveness and their mask mandate. I would simply add that their 14 day rolling average was 125.4 per 100,000 compared to the Municipality of Anchorage average of 114.8 per 100,000,” Savitt said.
The pediatricians who signed the letter attacking Savitt were: