Dr. Patrick Phillips is originally from New Brunswick. Phillips attended St. Francis Xavier University and then attended Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick where he received his medical degree. After this achievement he moved to Toronto and did two years of family medicine training and since then has been working in family medicine and emergency in northern Ontario.
During the last year he has studied COVID-19 through his patients, the economy, the hospital environments, the media and current research. This has caused him to feel a need to speak out for the public, to inform them of the concerns and harms that are occurring because of health restrictions and lockdowns.
Before diving in It’s important to understand a few things that have been discovered about COVID this year. Research suggests the virus and its risk factors for contracting it are very different than what we first thought. First is that evidence suggests that virus particles are airborne and not just in droplets. This information relates to other research which has found that, basically COVID gets transmitted indoors in stagnant air, in the cold and poorly ventilated areas. Asymptomatic people who are contagious are breathing out and essentially forming a cloud of COVID around themselves. Ventilation keeps the air moving so that people are breathing in less of someone else’s air even if that simply means opening a window and turning on some fans. That is why there are very few cases of transmission that take place outdoors
It’s now a well known fact that the younger you are the lower your chance of being affected or dying from covid. Ages 60+ are more at risk than lower ages which it will most likely either pass over or present as a really bad cold or flu. This is actually the main difference between COVID-19 and regular flu strains that we have become familiar with. The regular flu is typically more dangerous than COVID especially for young kids. “Normally in my emergency room,” Says Dr. Phillips. “There’s tons of kids who come in on death's door with the flu. A lot of kids get really sick and die or have to be hospitalized because of the flu… Across the board we are not seeing that.”
We have been pushed into a panic by the media about overwhelmed hospitals. ICU’s in Ontario have been at around 80-90% capacity this last year. Although the fact of the matter is that typically ICU’s are functioning at a 95% capacity especially during flu season. That seems to show that hospitals are usually more overwhelmed by the flu than COVID-19 cases.
Lately, strains on hospitals currently and one of them seems to be coming mostly from the effort to decrease the amount of beds available in long term care facilities in an effort to follow social distancing. Most of the older facilities actually would house four bed suits and are now being reduced to two bed suits. Phillips told The Buffalo Tribune, “If that patient transferred to the hospital they weren’t allowed to go back because when they left that bed it was closed down… putting a strain on the hospital system with ALC (alternative level care) patients which means potentially healthy patients who don’t need to be in the hospital but they are awaiting their bed in the long term care facility.” The military was called to assist at that time and they called it a humanitarian disaster.
Another major strain is the number of doctors, nurses, and other public service workers catching COVID. This is a problem for multiple reasons. Obviously, less frontline workers in healthcare facilities means less available care for ill patients. When that healthcare provider becomes ill and has to be at home for two weeks it causes the rest of the staff to become overworked and burn out quickly which can actually increase their chances of catching the virus. Plus it makes it nearly impossible for all of the patients to receive proper care.
“That’s why we’ve seen some of the disasters that have happened in long term care in Ontario,” said Phillips. “... What starts to happen is we end up with seniors being completely neglected. Their personal hygiene got completely neglected; not being washed or bathed for a week, a lot of them dying from dehydration because they are not able to drink.”
To make matters more unbearable visitation has drastically changed in healthcare facilities.Typically visitors aren’t allowed. There may be some exceptions based on age, area, and your ability to self advocate. This means that the elderly are spending their remaining days alone without family because they have been told by the government that it’s for their “best interest.” This is actually causing un-needed suffering for the elderly and isolation is killing them.
“They aren’t seeing family or friends as a result they are losing the will to live,” Phillips says. “One thing I’m seeing in the elderly is deterioration from not eating. We call this failure to thrive. When people are really old, they’ve lost the joy of life, they lose their appetites and stop eating and it can cause a lot of early death… people need a reason to live and a lot of that reason is their loved ones and their social interactions.”
It also seems that our youngest generations are being affected just as equally as the eldest. Children have undergone a major evolution over the last year and it’s been a silent suffering for most of them. Dr. Phillips as well as several of his colleagues have concerns regarding the health of our children and youth in terms of mental, emotional and physical health.
Dr. Phillips informed The Buffalo Tribune that, “There’s pediatricians that have blown the whistle on that here in Ontario that pediatric obesity is skyrocketing. That’s going to affect these kids for the rest of their lives unless that is drastically brought under control.” Dr Phillips is also, “Seeing suicidality in children in numbers I’ve never seen before.”
Even the less harmful effects of COVID, lockdowns and other health restrictions on children and youth are alarming. Phillips relays that this is a very crucial stage of development socially for kids and teens especially in ages 11-19. This is when they branch off and start to understand who they are and find their way in the world. These important developments and milestones are being hindered by lockdowns as kids are losing opportunities to separate from their parents. We can see the same patterns taking place even post highschool. These now young adults are just trying to get by and continue experimenting with who they are and yet, the work force is so unstable they are barely getting by. They have to continue living at home or else face loneliness and harsh consequences of these lockdowns.
Also adding to the problem is school closures that seem to oscillate so often it gets confusing and overwhelming. Small children are missing out on hours of play. Older kids are getting so stressed that many of them are either under performing in their studies or just giving up and dropping out altogether. This could be incredibly damaging to their future opportunities.
It doesn’t make sense to keep restrictions in place for younger age groups with these extreme types of harms occurring. There have been several studies in schools that have shown that, as Dr. Phillips put it, “The fact is kids are extremely low risk of dying or being harmed by COVID in any way.” Unless they have pre-existing health issues of course. He goes on to explain that there are very few cases of COVID that have been transferred from a child to teachers or parents to the community. Nor have there been cases of children passing the virus to an adult and the adult dying from it. He says that it’s usually the other way around and adults are giving it to kids because the way it spreads from child to child is different from how it spreads from adults. Kids' immune systems are so capable of fighting covid that usually children spread small viral particles instead of the virus itself. Phillips noted that the bigger risk inside of schools is the teachers lounge but feels the research should be more closely examined as the harms of closing schools outweigh the benefits.
With the virus running rampant kids are starting to receive a very morphed view of the world; that it’s not a safe place and they are not safe. Something as simple as a hug, playing at the park or just being a human makes them dangerous to themselves and loved ones. The mental weight of all this chaos is really starting to wear down children. They are even noticing the lack of control that they have in life and it’s translating into eating disorders (which are currently through the roof) as food is the one thing kids can control. Dr. Phillips had mentioned learning of extreme cases wherein children have actually become so afraid of their own saliva that they refused to eat or drink and had to be hospitalized.
So what is our country doing to solve these problems? There is propaganda in all sources of media describing health measures and symptoms, indoor gatherings are illegal, outdoor gatherings are limited if they are even allowed. Masks are mandatory, hand sanitizer and hand washing is strongly urged, and you must remain 6 ft apart from anyone outside your cohort and try to have limited contact with those in your own home.
Dr. Phillips introduces us to something called The Social Determinants of Health that strongly relates to these measures. It tells us that economic stability, healthy food, education, social interaction, healthy environment and healthcare are the most important factors that determine individual health.This is a direct link to the fact that since lockdowns have been put in place society’s ability to meet our own basic human needs has drastically reduced. It does not help that these measures, especially lockdowns are mandated instead of voluntary. “People are sitting at home.” said Phillips, “They’re drinking more, they’re not allowed to go to the gym, they’re not allowed to socialize to reduce stress levels… they are emotionally eating.” This could contribute to factors that can increase individual risk of catching covid or in extreme cases, dying from the virus such as obesity and hypertension.
There have been so many other side affects from these health regulations that have become a huge concern throughout the medical community. Dr. Phillips reported a major increase in suicidality, drug use, overdose and depression. People are scared to go to the doctor so other cases, such as tooth infections, are going untreated. Now, that easy to treat infection has become life threatening. He also noted that there have been several cases of missed cancer diagnosis that could have potentially been treated but instead are being discovered at later stages making the case more difficult to cure. This is partially due to Ontario shutting down cancer screening during the first lockdown and also the slightly inaccurate virtual doctors appointments that do not allow people to be properly checked.
Although Dr. Phillips appreciates the sentiment behind all of the current restrictions and mandated laws he says, “what does the science and literature show is effective? There’s peer reviewed studies on lockdowns and even masks. The evidence that they’re effective is very poor. Some show there is no effect at all. We also need to look at the harms as well as the effectiveness of any intervention that we give.”
Indeed there have in fact, been several studies on masking, one of them having taken place in Denmark. The results of that test showed that while wearing a mask one’s chances of getting covid only decrease by .03% which is scientifically insignificant.
As Phillips also mentioned, current tests are showing that masks could be adding to the spread of covid. The reason being that the mask is only effective for about the first 10 minutes. A dry mask will start to absorb the moisture from your breath in that short period of time and it will absorb some of those particles with COVID. What happens after that surface is fully saturated is it starts to do something called nebulization meaning, it starts to evaporate off that wet surface and can actually spread further.
Dr. Phillips Also added, “ it's not to say we shouldn't be protecting people in certain circumstances yeah, but for the most part it should be a filtering mask, like the N-95 which filters particles in the air… The Masks we wear will only stop large droplets not the spread of viruses. The idea is that we need to look closely and constantly re-evaluate any intervention that we have out there with the science. It's not uncommon that we create interventions with the intention of making things better, sometimes we find out in the end that we made things worse."
Phillips also acknowledges that PPE ( personal protective equipment ) has a time and a place for use. “ I'm not against wearing protective equipment in the hospital especially for people known to have COVID.. We have more effective masks in the hospital. We have the N-95.”
So what about social distancing? When transmission was originally thought to have been spread through droplets they put the six feet apart rule in place based on mannequin testing. As was previously mentioned studies are showing that COVID-19 is actually an airborne virus which means that unfortunately, it can travel further than if they are being then if a virus is being transmitted by droplets, rendering social distancing virtually useless.
To Sum up dr. Philips States, “ I'm all for voluntary health measures if you are high risk like the elderly then yes, reduce social contacts take whatever precautions you feel are necessary, but you should also have the freedom to pick and choose who visits and when, if you get lonely, depressed, Etc. Every individual is unique, every individual's health situation is unique, the risk factors are all unique. So I think it is dangerous to have across the board rules that do not meet everyone's Health needs."
Phillips recalls being taught in medical school to be skeptical of big Pharma. To look at the studies that were published with skepticism as the information could be “skewed”. He is now concerned that we have entered a new realm of influence which is politics involved in science and in medicine. “This,” says Phillips, “is even more dangerous because money is involved and the government can “change the rules of the whole game."
An example of government intervention is the new vaccines being able to skip crucial tests during clinical trials. not only did they skip animal testing but they did not test on maternity or elderly patients and did not complete stage 3 human testing. Stage three is important as it determines the long-term effects of a vaccine on the human body as it will be with a person for life. Dr. Phillips noted, “ that was all thrown out once people's political backs were thrown into the ring. their political career was hinge on it so come hell or high water this vaccine is going to be approved. They bought and paid for them before they were even approved."
Phillips' advice to the public is, "it's up to each individual whether you feel like the costs outweigh the benefits or not... Any vaccine which is a long-term treatment that can't be reversed needs to have long-term safety data before we administer it to the population... We need to have informed consent and people need to know we don't have long-term safety data before they get it." He also adds, “Politics has invaded every area of our lives. Governments have the ability to tell us what we can and cannot put in our own bodies, who we can spend our time with, what’s in our best interest as far as physical activity or whether we can go to work or not… what I was taught and what I believe is that people know what’s best for their own health. In med school patient autonomy was the most important thing we were taught. We have to give people free and informed choices.”
Unknown to most, is that we do have choices for covid treatment. In fact there are several studies that show vitamin D is a strong aid to preventing or treating the virus. Dr. Phillips explained, "people with low vitamin D levels are much more likely to end up in the hospital with covid-19 versus people with high vitamin D levels who tend to have the more mild form." This is extremely important for Canadians to have this information because we have limited access to high doses of Vitamin D throughout the long winter season. Vitamin D drops and vitamins can be purchased in pharmacies or health food stores.
There are also several pieces of scientific literature based off of early intervention methods such as hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin. Instead of sending covid patients home until they can't breathe anymore, either of these medicines can be administered at the very beginning. Treating this virus early not only manages symptoms but also helps return patients to normal health but could also reduce the risk of spreading.
Hydroxychloroquine has been used widely for malaria treatment and prophylaxis around the world for 50 years. Unfortunately Donald Trump came out in support of hydroxychloroquine which politicized the medicine. Then the media swooped in and said it was dangerous when it really isn't. All because media, politics and medicine have combined.
Had this information been available a year ago maybe the mortality rates from COVID would have been minimal. Or would it? Phillips relayed that in the beginning the medical community was misled by information coming from China, into doing something called early intubation. This is not typical practice for any other virus, usually the patient has to be unable to breathe it all anymore in order to be intubated. He remembers that they saw bodies piling up in the media, young healthy people were dying. Because they were afraid and because they believed that the virus was so dangerous the medical community used the recommended procedure that was seen in China, early intubation. What ended up happening is that they killed more people then even needed to die.
"We now know we should delay ventilations as long as possible because it damages the lungs," says dr. Phillips. "It can cause diffused alveolar damage from pressure, because you basically have to pump air into the lungs and that causes damage and worsens outcomes. There's a lot of people that died in New York and Northern Italy, a lot of those bodies piling up where people put on the ventilator too soon. We are no longer doing that, mortality rate is down, it's a seasonal virus that is linked to vitamin D levels. It does peak in the winter as it has... It's not what we thought it was in the beginning and it's not worth locking down society for anymore."
Interestingly enough, in Canada winter is when we have flu season and yet the flu seems to have vanished being replaced by covid-19. When asked dr. Phillips said there were two possible reasons as to why this has occurred. The first reason being that covid is now the new dominant strain of the flu. "A dominant strain tends to take hold of a community." says Dr. Phillips. "it's hard to be infected by two viruses at the same time. One takes hold and your immune system can cross-react with those... Covid has become the dominant respiratory virus for this year.”
The second option that was presented by Phillips was that the PCR tests are simply too sensitive and inaccurate causing them to mistake the flu for covid-19. "There's something called the cycle threshold. It basically takes what it recognizes as little pieces of the virus and keeps doubling them. Each cycle is a doubling of those particles until the test comes up positive.” Side note; the threshold used to determine a positive test is above 35, 38 in Ontario. Phillips continues saying, “a study was done at the threshold of 35; 97% of these positive tests did not grow covid-19 cell cultures which means that only 3% of those people with positive tests were contagious. At the cycle threshold they are using it makes the test way too sensitive they're just picking up tiny little viral particles.. . you could have had a cold infection months ago and you're still shedding the viral particles that are dead and have no chance of infecting anyone and you'll test positive. That's why we are seeing cases where one person tests positive but everyone else around them tests negative."
The WHO (World Health Organization) has released statements with concerns regarding the test as it can come up with false positives as well as false negatives. No one should be counted as positive unless they are presenting symptoms and have had two positive tests this lowers the risk of false results.
Dr. Phillips made sense of the various covid strains as he reminded us that there have been thousands of covid variants since the beginning and there's not much difference between them. "Every virus has variants. That's a big part of why we didn't develop vaccines for the common cold a long time ago. Coronavirus’ mutate so frequently that it is always a moving Target to develop a vaccine against them. What happens is there is evolutionary pressure on these viruses to become more contagious but less deadly. so most of the time when they mutate it is to become more contagious because that allows it to spread further, those are going to be the ones that take off. But also, they mutate to become less deadly because you want your host to live. You're going to spread more easily if your host lives than if it dies. That's why when we look at viruses with high mortality rates they don't spread very far. SARS in 2003, was very deadly. As a result it didn't spread very far because people got very symptomatic very quickly and often died so it didn't spread."
Another interesting find was the curve of excess mortality in April, May and into June. A lot of deaths happened during the first wave of covid-19. But while inspecting the information closer, Phillips found that excess deaths far outnumbered the deaths that occurred from covid-19 . Phillips believes a big part of that was the disasters that happened in long-term care because people weren't being taken care of due to burnt out staff and decreased staff numbers. We are seeing far more deaths happening from lockdowns (suicide, overdose, ect.) than from covid. Cancer referrals also went down by about 40 to 60% during the first wave.
"The rate of cancer didn't go down," said Phillips. "Just less people being detected with cancer. And so now we're just seeing a lot more advanced cancer because they missed their screening during the first wave. People also missed their life saving surgeries."
It's difficult to hear about all the lives lost this past year whether it's from covid or as a result of health regulations. It's easy to wonder why more healthcare professionals are not speaking out on these issues. The reality is people are afraid of losing their jobs and being unable to provide for themselves and their families. Medical colleges have gone after certain doctors or hospitals are not happy about doctors speaking out about these issues. Dr. Phillips is in touch with roughly 30 to 40 Physicians who are also concerned for the health and well-being of Canadian citizens after seeing the harms caused by lockdowns and health regulations.
Phillips has also had contact with doctors who share the opposite views and believe that we need to lock down harder because people are not doing their part. There are several Physicians who believe that covid zero is possible. This is the idea that covid needs to become non-existent. Australia and New Zealand had drastically reduced their numbers with this goal in mind. Sadly, they are getting into their cold season and they are seeing the number start to pop up again.
"I understand the perspective (of doctors with opposite views). I think what's happened is people have seen covid as this unthinkable event that needs to be eliminated." says Phillips. "When you have the mentality that one covid-19 death is one too many you're willing to do anything to stop those (deaths) including suspending all human rights. I think that's a major issue."
Dr. Phillips looks up to both Florida and Sweden in terms of how to deal with covid. Both have managed to remain open with minimal restrictions and maintain their economy. To date, they're case numbers and mortality rates are no worse than anyone else's.
We were able to speak with Florida nurse Carlee Hansen to get a few more details about what's happening in her state. Referencing the hospital that she works at Hansen says, “We are not overwhelmed with patients, we never really got to that point. Us as nurses are definitely overwhelmed with short staffing and dealing with this crazy pandemic and just not receiving support from higher management. I know other hospitals around this area that were overwhelmed with patients are doing better. Numbers in Florida in general have gone down a ton."
While discussing lockdowns Hansen does that they are "pretty much open completely." The regulations that are still in place are mask wearing (that isn't even enforced in some areas) there's a limit of 100 or so people on indoor events such as weddings, and there are still restrictions on the number of shoppers in stores. Churches have restrictions making people leave a row in between while sitting, wearing masks, and they are not allowed to sing.
When asked if covid-19 is as bad as we originally thought she said, "Yes and no. No because we know more about it so it isn't as scary. But yes because we know it is unpredictable and really sick patients can be hard to treat. For vulnerable groups it is still very deadly and for healthy people it either comes off like a flu or they are hospitalized." Hanson goes on to say that it can be difficult treating covid-19 patience because the virus will attack the body in different ways based on underlying health conditions.
Hanson also agrees that in the beginning health regulations were very necessary as a precaution since the death rate was up and there wasn't much information on the virus itself. However She does also share a similar view to dr. Phillips, saying that, “I think it has gone on too long. Masks and social distancing are effective for most and anyone who is at risk should know better than to go to a gathering of people... Every stage will have an increase of covid-19 numbers. And if we panic and close back down this happens we will never get open again." Hanson shares the example that after the Christmas holidays the numbers went up as expected, her hospital had prepared beforehand dealt with the cases and are seeing a significant decrease in numbers again. She also informed us that death rates are going down and positive cases are also going down even without the extreme restrictions that we have in Canada.
In regard to testing Hanson shared some common sense. "I think constant testing in and out of the hospital is unnecessary. If we tested every single person with flu symptoms during flu season we would be shocked at the flu numbers which are already so high... Even during one of the last ones (outbreaks) they announced they were going to stop testing the public just because, and the numbers disappeared. but I know it's because they want you to quarantine if you are positive."
When asked if she thinks that her say should be locking down harder she responded saying," No, why would I? We are open and our numbers are good. I think it's different everywhere, but here whatever we are doing it's working."
It’s clear that Dr. Phillips has done his research and is dedicated to finding the best solution for the public. “I spend tons of time reading through and understanding research,” says Phillips. “And that's what people should base their opinions on is the research... I can speak to my experience surrounding the harms of lockdowns, to certain patients… The other part is medical ethics, how do we treat people? whether they have freedom over their own health and our whole approach to Health Care of taking away patients' choices and not letting them make their choices around their own healthcare. I think in the realm of evidence, especially peer-reviewed literature, that's what formed my opinions around these topics. people should have the freedom to decide what to do with their own lives, and take their own risk to determine what's right for them."
So what's Dr. Phillips final word? “I don't think I'm the ultimate authority on covid... If I can be a voice for some of that research, for some of these treatments then that's great. All I care about is that the truth gets out there... It doesn't mean that I'm right about everything I'm saying. What we need is free and open debate around the science and around literature. I'm more than happy for things that I've said to be wrong if the evidence comes out that these things are wrong. But I think even if that's the case, physicians should feel free to speak out openly so that we can debate and have a back and forth and come to some conclusions around what the evidence says best for society... We need to have an open debate so people can hear both sides so we can come to a conclusion that follows the science."