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Stanford Medical Professor On DeSantis: COVID Success Because He’s ‘Very Well Informed,’ Better Than ‘Most Epidemiologists’

"I've never met a politician that like him."

   DailyWire.com
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - APRIL 22: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis interacts with media during the UFC 261 press conference at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on April 22, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Jayanta Bhattacharya, professor of medicine at the University of Stanford, raved about Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis during a recent interview, saying that DeSantis was unlike any politician that he has ever met because of how well DeSantis researched and understood the science involving COVID-19.

“I’ve never met a politician that like him. He’s extraordinary,” Bhattacharya said on “The Tom Woods Show” with host Tom Woods. “We had a two-hour conversation, about COVID policies, this is in September of last year … and he had read all the papers I referenced and not just my just my articles, lots and lots of other papers. He knew all the details, it was a remarkable conversation. And then we had this like roundtable on September 25th, with Martin and Mike Leavitt, and with DeSantis leading it, and the next day he lifted most of the restrictions all across Florida.”

Bhattacharya — who has a PhD in economics in addition to being a medical doctor — said that DeSantis had a unique combination of “intellectual bravery” and the “willingness to take a stand.”

Woods said that he had completely misjudged DeSantis and that he could go up against any governor in the U.S. despite all the criticism that he has faced from left-leaning media that he was “not following the science.”

“He could go up against an epidemiologists,” Bhattacharya said. “I mean, most, most epidemiologists don’t know the literature as well as he does. I mean, I just I don’t have the words… I’ve just been, I’m still stunned by it, I didn’t know anything about him actually, before, you know, basically before September really. I’ve just been very impressed.”

“I had a reporter ask me about him from Politico and the sort of line the reporter was trying to give me was that [DeSantis] got lucky that he turned out to be right … but he got lucky,” Bhattacharya continued. “[O]bviously, there’s great uncertainty about risks about any policy of this kind of scope, but you know, it’s not actually luck. He was very, very well informed.”

Bhattacharya said that part of the genius in how DeSantis managed Florida’s response to the pandemic was that he built a system that was “robust to a very large number of … scientific uncertainties.”

“By adopting a policy that’s robust to scientific uncertainty, he’s sort of inoculated himself against the sense being wrong, because he’s, he’s adopted a policy that that will be right over a very broad range of scientific parameters,” Bhattacharya said. “Whereas the lockdown folks, they’re only right for a narrow set of scientific parameters. And those types of errors turned out to be not right. So I think in a sense, he’s not lucky, he actually is smart. And he really got the policy right by delving deep into the science.”

LISTEN:

TRANSCRIPT:

TOM WOODS, HOST: Wrapping up, but I just want to know, what is your impression of Ron DeSantis having  interacted with him at least several times?

JAY BHATTACHARYA, STANFORD MEDICAL PROFESSOR: I mean, I’ve never met a politician that like him. He’s extraordinary. He called me out of the blue sometime in mid-September, like on a Sunday morning, I’m not sure exactly how he got my number, but he called me up, said, would you like to speak to Governor DeSantis? I said, Okay. And he had read, I mean we had a two-hour conversation, about COVID policies, this is in September of last year … and he had read all the papers I referenced and not just my just my articles, lots and lots of other papers. He knew all the details, it was a remarkable conversation. And then we had this like roundtable on September 25th, with Martin and Mike Leavitt, and with DeSantis leading it, and the next day he lifted most of the restrictions all across Florida. 

I mean, this is a combination of like, bravery, intellectual bravery, and also willingness to take a stand that it’s a knowledge that I’ve never seen in politician before.

WOODS: Yeah, and I completely misjudged him. Initially, I thought he was like one of these jocks who, you know, gets into Yale and pulls Cs and, you know, whatever. I just for some reason, I thought that and I, now I really reproach myself for some reason, having jumped to that conclusion, because he’s, when I saw the initial roundtable he did numerous months ago, I thought he was he was so informed, and without any notes, he was so informed about the literature. And I mean, now, it’s not that uncommon for people to know about the Iceland contact tracing study of early on relating to schools and the spread and stuff. But, you know, he just knew that off the top of his head, for all these people criticizing him for not following the science or [other] Governor’s route, he he could go up against any governor in the U.S., it seems to me.

BHATTACHARYA: He could go up against an epidemiologists. I mean, most, most epidemiologists don’t know the literature as well as he does. I mean, I just I don’t have the words. I mean, I’ve just been, I’m still stunned by it, I didn’t know anything about him actually, before, you know, basically before September really. I’ve just been very impressed.

WOODS: Well, one way I know there won’t be any other lockdowns in Florida. I mean, not not only because the numbers seem to be trending down, and we have reasons to think this thing is coming to an end, or at least a manageable equilibrium, is that he staked his entire political fortunes on there being no more lockdowns. There’s no way, it’s not like George Bush saying, ‘read my lips, no new tax.’ This is way beyond that. Everything about Ron DeSantis now is that he is the guy who left Florida live. That’s who he is.

BHATTACHARYA: Yeah, I think, I think you’re right. He’s he’s basically, like I had a reporter asked me about him from Politico. And the sort of line the reporter was trying to give me was that he got lucky that he turned out to be right … but he got lucky. And, you know, I mean, like, you know, obviously, there’s great uncertainty about risks about any policy of this kind of scope. But you know, it’s not actually luck. He was very, very well informed. And the policy that he adopted for his state, this focus protection policy is robust to a lot of uncertainty. I mean, that’s, like, let’s say, the [Infection Fatality Ratio] is double what I think it is, well, that actually still focus protections is the right policy because you, as long as you have that age gradient in risk, the right thing to do is focus protection. It’s robust to a very large number of … scientific uncertainties. By adopting a policy that’s robust to scientific uncertainty, he’s, he’s sort of inoculated himself against the sense being wrong, because he’s, he’s adopted a policy that that will be right over a very broad range of, of sort of scientific parameters. Whereas the lockdown folks, they’re only right for a narrow set of scientific parameters. And those types of errors turned out to be not right. So I think in a sense, he’s not lucky, he actually is smart. And he really got the policy right by delving deep into the science.

WOODS: Yeah, no kidding. And the thing is, though, in despite all the confidence you might have, in what you’ve been reading, there’s still, he still must have had some sleepless nights, you know, when they’re with the Sun Belt spike was going on, maybe and now that was probably before the full opening, but it was still somewhat open. And he must have been wondering, and second guessing himself, at least in private, because you are dealing with people’s lives here, but he stuck with it.

BHATTACHARYA: Yeah, yeah. He staked his career on this, right. I mean, I guess I staked my career on this too, right, but I think the key thing here is like, why, why are we having, this is one of these things where like, it’s, we’re going to look back and just hang our heads and say, why did we do, why does it require sticking people’s careers on this? When what should have happened is a reasoned discussion in March about who’s at risk and how do we protect them? I’ve read a Washington Post piece by Mike Osterman, who was like one of Joe Biden’s advisors now I think on COVID from I think it was March, where he basically argued for the red [inaudible] declaration March of last year, so I don’t really understand, even Fauci was in February was talking about it in sort of a more correct way. I don’t, I mean, we just changed policy without a discussion, without actually thinking about what the risk profiles were and what the right thing to do based on those risk profiles. Older people are the most vulnerable. Why not just protect, why not work incredibly hard to protect them? Lock downs are really going to be deadly, how could we not know that? I mean that’s a conversation that shouldn’t require people staking their career, that should have just been the outcome of a reasoned discussion at the beginning of the pandemic.

WOODS: Yeah, that is indeed how it should have gone. I remember him saying young people should go on that cruise. There’s no reason they can’t, but old people should think twice. And then suddenly, it was absolutely no one ever can go on any cruise. Even as the numbers seem to become less panic inducing, the more manageable it seemed to be, the crazier everybody became, I don’t know what was going on there. But all the same. Jay Bhattacharya, I want to thank you for your time and also for being a quiet scientist who just wants to do his work, but who in this particular set of circumstances has risen to the occasion in ways that are probably not comfortable for you, but that are important for the rest of us.

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