No, Dr. Oz Didn't Say Only 2–3% of Children Would Die of Coronavirus If Schools Reopened

Dr. Oz deserves criticism, but he was clumsily referencing a real—and actually encouraging—scientific study.


During his many years as a celebrity doctor, Mehmet Oz has promoted a variety of medically unsound products and causes. When he offers advice on how the government should handle the coronavirus pandemic, it is reasonable to be skeptical.

So I was initially inclined to side with the commentators currently criticizing Dr. Oz for remarks he made recently on Fox News. Unfortunately, his critics have misquoted him, wrongly making it sound like he was recommending schools be re-opened despite the possibility of mass death among students. Oz should have chosen his words more carefully, but those who are dunking on him for this are—intentionally or not—promoting misinformation, because it turns out that there is some evidence that schools could be re-opened even as COVID-19 rages.

On his Wednesday night show, Sean Hannity asked what should be done to get the economy going again. Oz replied: "Schools are a very appetizing opportunity. I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet arguing the opening of schools may only cost us 2–3 percent in terms of total mortality. Any life is a life lost but to get every child back into a school where they are safely being educated, being fed, and making the most of their lives, with the theoretical risk on the back side, might be tradeoff some folks would consider."

All your favorite #Resistance blue checkmarks leapt to denounce Dr. Oz, and Fox by extension, for suggesting that the deaths of millions of children could ever be considered an acceptable tradeoff. (The phrase "only 2–3%" was trending on Twitter.)

But Dr. Oz was not describing a death toll in the millions. He said the cost could be "2–3 percent in terms of total mortality," not among all school-aged children or the population at large.

That Lancet article argues that school closures may not be a particularly effective social distancing measure. It cites modeling from Imperial College London that estimates the U.K.'s school closures will reduce overall deaths by about 2–4 percent. In other words, if there are 100,000 COVID-19 deaths despite the schools being closed, having had the schools open anyway would have yielded 2,000–4,000 additional deaths. That's thousands, not millions.

Meanwhile, the article notes that many children depend on school not just for education but for supplemental nutrition. "Following school closures amidst the west African Ebola epidemic, rates of child labour, neglect, sexual abuse, and adolescent pregnancies spiked, and many children never returned to school," the article's authors write. It is possible, they thus conclude, that keeping schools closed would do more harm on net.

The issue is not settled. The Lancet writers are relying on a model, and models can be wrong. But it's a helpful piece of information, and Dr. Oz was not countenancing the deaths of millions of children when he referenced it.

NEXT: Hydroxychloroquine Trial for Treating COVID-19 Disappoints

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  1. The sick obsession of every twitter user to do back of the envelope "% effected" calculations is half of the reason why we are all locked down. Every time someone talks about a percentage it is always "X% x 300 Million americans is Y.Y Million dead!!!!"

    Never, ever should 300 Million be the at risk population. But they all do it constantly, to the point that it is a fucking prayer chant to them.

    1. Take the People's Republic of Jersey for example:

      In my county, there are 624 confirmed cases and 18 dead (2.8%).
      Of course, my county has 225,000 people (an infection rate of 0.277% and death rate of 0.008%).

      Open the damn state up.

      *weather underground has stats for each county*

      1. In Camden County, we have 1,447 confirmed cases with 700 recovered and 41 deaths. Which is weird, because in the entire state of New Jersey, there are allegedly 68,824 confirmed cases with 514 recovered and 2,805 deaths. How there are more recovered cases in a single county than in the whole state is beyond me.

        1. Pretty damning if you can, um, cough up an official link.

          1. The official number of deaths in Camden County as of yesterday was 54, which makes a hell of a lot more sense. I'm not sure where Google got its bizarre numbers.

            1. From their tracking app soon to be mandated?

              1. Try the COVID app that Johns Hopkins has: Link to App

        2. Some people die twice in other states.

          1. Maybe they are counting by votes cast in the last election?

    2. Not true! I can pretty much guarantee that every single one of those 300 million will die. At some point.

    3. I look at it as a sign that you're dealing with someone who thinks they're way smarter than they really are and can be ignored.

  2. I've already seen this on my Facebook page and people just won't admit they were wrong about what he said. They are convinced he wants 1.7 million kids to die.

  3. Who 'does' that guys eyebrows?
    I mean none of the Kardasians have *that* nerve.

    1. Isnt he Turkish, they all got crazy eyebrows like that.

  4. Dr. Oz was on SEan Hannity? Jesus Christ, I’m interested... what huckster supplements and pills for old man dick were in the advertisements?

    1. Why, you need some?

    2. I imagine you got a boner when that MSNBC bitch suggested a shadow government with dementia patient and serial sex abuser Joe Biden at the helm. Well, not with his hand on the tiller, mostly in his pants or anyone's standing next to him. Assuming he could stand.

  5. Too many fat kids nowadays anyways, lets thin the population out a little.

    1. "At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, . . . it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

      "Are there no prisons?"

      "Plenty of prisons . . ."

      "And the Union workhouses," demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"

      "Both very busy, sir . . ."

      "Those who are badly off must go there."

      "Many can't go there; and many would rather die."

      "If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

  6. I don't know about school being safer, from what i understand there are mass shooting at every school every day and of course home isn't safe because drunken parents are playing with guns. we better just put all kids into some form of group enclosure where we can keep an eye on them.

    1. I know the place. But they will have to drink from toilets.

  7. It is now necessary to defend a Dr. Oz statement.

    The end of time is near.

    1. I know, it blows my mind. At best he is so out of touch with the world he didn't even consider how those comments would come off. At worst he really doesnt give a crap how many people die as long as the economy bounces back quickly so people can buy the snake oil he promotes. For a "doctor" he is incredibly callous about the lives of people suffering and dying and the grief and loss it would cause their loved ones.

  8. Too late. Once my outrage boner is activated it cannot be so easily deactivated.

    1. Woah! Is this out of character for you? I mean, I don't hate it. It just seems like a new side I haven't seen before.

      1. He took a pill that was recommended by Dr. Oz . . .

  9. I'm a little surprised no one's beating him up for the pedophiliac "Schools are a very appetizing opportunity."

    1. Sounds cannibalistic.

  10. " turns out that there is some evidence that schools could be re-opened even as COVID-19 rages..." Why is this even being considered? Education - K12 through college - is virtually free online and would be far cheaper if online education were accredited. The only thing you need a brick-and-mortar institution for is science lab work and, possibly, security while taking tests - which would require far less time than going to school every day. Moreover, this stay-at-home BS amounts to using government force on adults and violating their rights, and keeping them from earning a living. Why is putting kid back in public 'education' institutions more important than recognizing the rights of adults to provide for themselves and their families?

    1. "Education – K12 through college – is virtually free online"
      And you get every penny of what you pay for. Certainly, for well-motivated individuals who *want* the education, and can focus well on their studies despite more appealing entertainment options, they can reap more value from online education than the price the(ir parents) pay. But most kids *aren't* well-motivated, highly-focused, and interested in doing something on their computer that *isn't* a video game. A teacher in a classroom can see the whole batch of miscreants in front of them and see who is staring out the window, trying to read a book under their desk, falling asleep, or talking with the kid next to them. Put the same group of kids in Zoom windows and the teacher is playing whack-a-mole to try to keep the kids focused, or droning on at a bunch of people who have turned the sound down and are playing Animal Jam in another window.

  11. I find it amusing this website is called reason because your “reason” is hogwash. “Dr.” Oz said exactly what he said and there’s visual evidence to back up that’s precisely what he said. No amount of word salad can or will change that. The first Tweet you showed quoted the bad “doctor” verbatim, and presented no commentary except an emoji. Use reason next time.

    1. "...“Dr.” Oz said exactly what he said and there’s visual evidence to back up that’s precisely what he said."..." X (entered since the Reason software no longer allows spacing)Read the entire article and didn't see what you claim. X Got a cite, or just bullshit?

    2. This should help you understand.

  12. So what’s it going to be progs? Yesterday, you wanted all kids going to school because the poor ones need the free lunch and free condoms, might fall further behind because they don’t have internet at home, and the unionIzed teachers need to justify their existence. Then along comes some icky doctor on FOX News who agrees with you and now you want them to stay home. What a bunch of fucking idiots

    1. Lol you think teachers need to justify their existence? That's one of the most uneducated statement I think I've ever heard.

      1. They would if more parents weren't all go-along, get-along faggots who worship cops, prosecutors, and teachers like they're angels of God. But since they are, they don't, so your point stands, madame. 😉

  13. I don't get my health advice from celebrity doctors. They are beholding to their sponsoring companies, not to me and my health.

  14. "2-3% in terms of total mortality." I know. Math is hard. Worth a visit today to where they're headlining this gem, which pretty much captures what is wrong with everybody out there lecturing us:

  15. Hey Robby!

    Don't you just hate it when you get boxed in to supporting someone you don't agree with?

    I share your skepticism of Oz. More than share, probably... the guy sells snake oil when he certainly should know better.

    But there's something in the Libertarian DNA that requires us to correct the record when people press false narratives and unjustly attack a deserving target. It really is frustrating, particularly when the target happens to accidentally end up on our side. Makes me want to scream "stay off my side! You're not helping!"

  16. Anyone else notice at :13 that the girl is looking at porn?
    Not sure that's what they wanted kids looking at with borrowed laptops?

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