Crymes-Connor debate

Bill Crymes (left), and Bill Connor (right).

Dr. William Crymes, who wrote about COVID-19 for the June Mercury and offered us an exclusive online Q&A, asked to respond to Bill Connor's most recent article for the June 9 Charleston Mercury Newsletter. Below is their debate, which has been edited slightly for space.

Dr. Crymes

As a physician and armchair molecular geneticist, I would like to respond to Mr. Connor’s article “The ‘scientific-technological elite’ is not where we should put our faith” in the recent Mercury newsletter.

Let me first state my full support for the title of Mr. Connor’s article, as faith typically has zero use in either science or technology. I put faith in religion and, to a lesser extent, in government, but science is about fact and experiment. Although science can change depending on technology, it does not depend in any way, shape or form on faith or belief. You can choose to not believe in gravity or quantum mechanics, yet the result is the same if we leap off a building or use a cell phone.

Dr. Fauci received thousands of emails, and yes, some were from scientists. However, there is absolutely no scientific proof that COVID-19 was engineered by humans. The reason we know this is that the COVID-19 genome, published in January 2020, has been compared to all of the known coronaviruses. There is not a single gene in COVID-19 genome that cannot be traced to a previously sequenced viral genome.

COVID-19 could have been discovered and accidentally released from a lab, but it is a complete and total lie to suggest humans had any part in engineering the COVID-19 genome. This fact does not change, whether you choose to believe it or not, because it is a fact.

Regarding the positive effects of hydroxycholoroquine, I must also agree. This drug has significant anti-inflammatory effects, and when people die of COVID-19, it is typically secondary to a massive inflammatory reaction. However, if it’s widely taken without caution, more people will die from fatal heart arrhythmias than will be saved from the virus. This is a simple fact, no faith needed. Steroids have the same anti-inflammatory response, and as an added bonus, they are dirt cheap, don’t kill people and have been used extensively during the pandemic. It is reprehensible the former administration pushed treatments that have well-established, fatal side effects. I trust addressing the injection of disinfectants is not necessary at this time.

There is not a single piece of evidence that does not support the use of masks during the mitigation phase of a respiratory virus pandemic. During the containment phase of a respiratory virus, masks are only useful in the presence of a suspected infected individual — which is why Fauci said in January we did not need to all wear masks. Due to the horrendous failure of containment and vastly premature reopening by the former administration, masks, shutdowns and social distancing were necessary. You can blame the former administration’s politicization of masks for American’s infection rate almost 40 times higher than other countries and our appalling COVID-19 death rate of nearly 50 times higher than some countries.

The importance of faith in God and personal reason during a pandemic is mentionable. I am a religious man, but there is nothing in the Bible that teaches anything about how to fight a respiratory virus. Further, personal reason is in no way prepared to lend a single useful act that would prevent the spread of a pandemic unless you are trained in virology and epidemiology.

We listen to theologians and people of faith who are formally trained to guide us to a moral, ethical and good life. Why debunk those who are likewise formally trained in guiding us on how not to die during a pandemic?

We put faith in the former president to control this virus, and 600,000 American lives are gone. During the 1918 pandemic, the United States of America was responsible for 1.4 percent of deaths worldwide; we are currently responsible for nearly 20 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. These are simple facts and they all say, out loud, “Listen to the scientists.”

Mr. Connor

I appreciate Dr. Crymes joining the debate. This search for truth is what has become sorely lacking during COVID-19, and a primary thrust of my article. I will re-explain my thesis of Americans putting ultimate faith in God rather than placing ultimate faith in what President Eisenhower warned against: a “scientific technological elite.” Unfortunately, Dr. Crymes misunderstood the point of putting ultimate faith in God as being a disregard of science.

As Eisenhower thoughtfully explained in his presidential farewell address, putting blind faith in a “scientific technical elite” restricts intellectual curiosity necessary to find truth. The following quote sums up his point: “Holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.” In essence, don’t make a scientific elite “god” into which we place ultimate faith, but keep healthy skepticism and demand evidence above faith with regard to science.

Similarly, my article was not a call for a disregard of science but to practice the scientific method. Science demands skepticism and the understanding of theory and law. In the context of Dr. Fauci, Americans were generally told to put ultimate faith in Dr. Fauci’s “truth” claim rather than in assessment of conflicting evidence and studies. That’s misplaced faith.

In his criticism, Dr. Crymes made the unsupported assertion that the dangers of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) outweighed the benefits. That goes against the weight of the evidence and science and shows misplaced faith. Shortly after the retraction of the Lancet study that falsely argued the benefits of HCQ were outweighed by the dangers (https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200605/lancet-retracts-hydroxychloroquine-study), Dr. Fauci argued against the use of HCQ. However, Dr. Harvey Risch of Yale’s school of public health rebuked Fauci and called HCQ “the key to defeating COVID-19.” Many studies continued to show the scientific evidentiary basis of the benefit of HCQ. I will let the reader assess just a few of the studies: “By considering more factors and using new methods, we found that when increased doses of co-administered HCQ and AZM were associated with >100% increase in survival” https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.28.21258012v1. In reviewing the results of 306 studies of the results of HCQ in treatment of COVID-19, the following was the conclusion (https://c19hcq.com/): “Early treatment with HCQ was consistently positive.”

Dr. Crymes criticized me regarding the origin of COVID-19 by again disregarding the evidence. On Feb. 1, 2020, Dr. Kristian Anderson emailed Dr. Fauci, claiming in the COVID-19 genome “some of the features look engineered.” Multiple other Fauci emails provided similar notice of the engineered characteristics. The following Berkeley lab study provided overwhelming evidence the virus was almost certainly engineered in a lab: https://nypost.com/2021/06/06/damning-science-shows-covid-19-likely-engineered-in-lab/.

Dr. Crymes also misunderstood our debate to involve Trump and gratuitously threw in an absurd comparison of pandemic casualties during the Spanish flu versus COVID-19 just to hammer Trump: Due to Trump, U.S. casualties were a much higher percentage of the world during COVID-19 compared to the percentage during the Spanish flu. Absurd comparison: The Spanish flu pandemic was at the end of World War I, which involved tens of millions of dead Europeans. Millions more Europeans were starving, wounded and malnourished, and that is why the pandemic hit Europe harder than America due to World War I. Additionally, there was no national U.S. response then, so the presidency wasn’t a factor. Third, COVID-19 is still spiking in various nations, like India, at various times. Due to Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, the vaccines have brought U.S. cases down.

One positive development is that we are going back to debating evidence. Ultimate faith should only be placed in God and not scientific-technological elites.

Dr. Crimes

One question: Why are physicians across the country not prescribing hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients? Does anyone believe we enjoyed watching 600,000 breathless, intubated, prone Americans in ICUs without family or friends around, having their last breaths pumped into their stiff lungs while ignoring a treatment Mr. Connor cites as increasing survival by more than 100 percent?

The fact is that after granting emergency use authorization, the FDA issued a warning against the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in the setting of COVID-19 (https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-cautions-against-use-hydroxychloroquine-or-chloroquine-covid-19-outside-hospital-setting-or) and cited these results (https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/nda/2020/OSE%20Review_Hydroxychloroquine-Cholorquine%20-%2019May2020_Redacted.pdf), namely, cardiac toxicity and methemoglobinemia (too little oxygen in the blood) with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.

Although Mr. Connor provides citations for his information, they do not hold up to the standards for the conclusions of peer-reviewed, scientific research. The MedRxiv article he cites regarding HCQ has this statement in bold beneath the title: “This article is a preprint and has not been peer-reviewed. It reports new medical research that has yet to be evaluated and so should not be used to guide clinical practice” (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.28.21258012v1). Further, the website with “the results of 306 studies of the results of HCQ” (https://c19hcq.com/) does not have an affiliation with any university or research agency and its Twitter account (@CovidAnalysis) has been suspended.

As for the mention of Dr. Harvey Risch, HCQ supporter, Dr. Risch has never published a single primary research article on COVID-19, virology, infection, viral epidemiology, antivirals or critical care medicine; additionally, we cannot ignore that Dr. Risch was publicly criticized by his own university for his wildly unfounded statements regarding HCT (https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2020/08/16/ysph-professor-criticized-for-promoting-unproven-drug-to-treat-covid-19/). Unlike Dr. Harvey, millions of physicians can evaluate the current data regarding the use of HCT (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmoa2012410, https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/full/10.7326/M20-4207, https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2021/04/covid-outpatients-dont-benefit-hydroxychloroquine-lopinavir-ritonavir, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-22446-z).

So either all formally trained physicians have joined an evil cabal, which would have to include the FDA and all respected COVID-19 treatment researchers, with the goal of watching 600,000 fellow Americans die while a magical treatment sits on a shelf, or Mr. Connor is getting his data from sources that are at best questionable or at worse, absolutely false.