A video of California doctor Jeff Barke speaking about COVID-19 has gone viral online. In the video, Barke offers countering views to some governmental approaches, raising questions about the efficacy of masks and stay-at-home orders.
Barke has written about, and shared, the video on his Facebook page. “FB now blocking this video – please continue to share!” he wrote. He first shared the video on May 5. He spoke at a “protest rally to open Riverside County” after stay-at-home orders there. According to Barke’s CV, his full name is Jeffrey I. Barke, M.D. You watch the video of Barke’s comments here:
In the video, Barke said:
What if the experts are wrong? What if quarantining the healthy doesn’t actually save lives? What if wearing a mask in public is not effective? My name is Dr. Jeff Barke, and I’m here representing thousands of physicians across the country whose voices are being silenced because we don’t agree with the mainstream media and the experts who are telling us what to do. Never in the history of this great republic have we quarantined the healthy; never in the history of this great republic have we told churchgoers that it’s illegal for you to exercise your First Amendment right of freedom of religion. Yet, at the same time, it’s essential to keep pot dispensaries open. Never in the history of this country have we been told that you can’t go to church because it’s ‘non-essential’ but you can go get an abortion because that’s ‘essential.’ Never before in our country have we let criminals out of jail but we’ve told you, you can’t exercise your Second Amendment right and protect yourself by purchasing a firearm. When liquor stores are deemed essential but your businesses are deemed non-essential, there’s something wrong going on.
This booklet, the Declaration of Independence and our U.S. Constitution, was never designed to restrain the people; it was designed to restrain the government. This is not New York, and thank God this is not San Francisco. Gov. Newsom has gone too far. Gov. Newsom has stepped on our liberties and our freedoms.
As a physician, I can tell you: Yes, this virus is dangerous. But as we see the statistics come in, we’re realizing that the fatality rate of this virus is in the ballpark of a bad seasonal influenza. What we’re also knowing is that just like other respiratory viral illnesses in the past, we get over this virus by achieving herd immunity. We can never achieve herd immunity by keeping the herd quarantined.
It’s time that we protect the vulnerable and the most at risk, but we allow the young and healthy to open the doors and go back to work. Do not let your voices be silenced; make sure that your elected representatives, who apparently are ‘essential,’ hear your voice loud and clear. As we see unemployment rise to depression levels, we also see suicide increase. We see domestic violence increase; we see child abuse increase. We see alcohol and drug abuse increase; all because the government has overstepped its reach. We will see eventually that this cure, this government-imposed cure, is going to be worse than the virus itself. But what’s happening now as unemployment reaches 20 to 30 million people, is those folks are now becoming dependent on the government, and what government dependency causes is a larger, more tyrannical government.
We the people want to get back to work. We the people want to put our government back in its place. We want a small representative government, not a large tyrannical government. I’m here representing thousands of physicians around the country whose voices must be heard. It is an honor and privilege to be here to ask that Riverside County be opened. We want Orange County to be opened. We want the whole state of California to be opened. And we want our whole country, the United States of America, to open back up, and we the people will not take it any longer.
Here’s what you need to know:
Barke Has Been Practicing Medicine in California for Years & Served as an Expert Medical Reviewer, According to His CV
Barke is in private practice with Personalcare Physicians of Newport Beach, according to his CV.
His CV says that he has also served on the elected governing board of directors for the Los Alamitos Unified School District in Los Alamitos, California, as an associate clinical professor with the University of California Irvine School of Medicine Department of Family Practice (from 1994 through 2020), as past elected chairman of the Department of Family Medicine for Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian (from 2006-2008), as Chairman of the Physician Wellness Committee for Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and on its Medical Executive Committee, as a board member of the Orange County Medical Association, and as a board member on Pathways to Independence, a non-profit foundation that assists young women in becoming independent.
His CV says he has been an expert medical reviewer for the Medical Board of California, Division of Medical Quality and works as a reserve deputy sheriff and tactical physical (SWAT) and as a drug liaison officer and search and rescue reserve unit member for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Barke did his internship and residency in family practice at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, in the 1990s and received a doctor of Medicine from the University of California-Irvine in 1990. He has a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Southern California, class of 1985.
He lists Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian under hospital privileges and says his clinical research involved a study of disability and migraines. He has given presentations on issues ranging from asthma to influenza. He says he’s a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, California Academy of Family Physicians, and American Association of Physicians and Surgeons.
His LinkedIn page lists him as co-founder of Personalcare Physicians of Newport Beach for 16 years. “Personalcare Physicians provides private physician services to discerning clients that are tired of the traditional, insurance driven healthcare model. Our physicians keep a very limited practice, allowing proactive, direct, and personalized attention to our client’s medical needs. We provide independent, family, and enterprise private medical services,” the page says.
Dr. Barke Spoke to Heavy at Length About His Views
Heavy reached out to Dr. Barke by phone to get a fuller sense of his perspective.
Asked to explain his position on masks, he said, “My perspective is there isn’t much science behind the benefit of wearing a mask; most people are not used to wearing a mask.” He said it’s different if a person is, say, an ICU nurse, and a mask is part of their “routine outfit, and it fits properly, and you’re used to it.” He said that the “average person going into Walmart and Costco doesn’t know how to wear it properly, so they’re adjusting the mask, it itches, they’re touching their face, and it defeats the purpose and is probably counter-productive.”
He said that the “other problem is that if you wear it more than five or 10 minutes, it gets very moist on the inside from your own respiratory secretions and reduces the effectiveness of the mask …You’re trapping your own pathogens in your mask and can potentially re-infect yourself.” In addition, he said that if the mask is not ventilated properly, it affects breathing. “I see people jogging with a mask on. There is zero science on that, and it does more harm than good.”
So, in general, he said, “I don’t think masks are effective. They may actually be counter-productive. There are specific situations where they might be beneficial, such as if you were in very close quarters, if you have to take the subway with people packed together for example or if people are packed together in an airplane.”
As for the dangers of COVID-19, he said, “What we know about this virus…it’s droplet based. I can only spread it as far as I sneeze or cough.”
Thus, he said that “in a crowded environment with no restrictions, if you were worried you were sick, a mask could prevent those droplets from leaving your mouth, but the reality is unless someone is walking down the aisle and they sneeze and cough literally on you,” the chances of getting COVID-19 are small. He said most people get COVID-19 from situations such as when someone with it “touches their mouth and wipes their nose and you touch that counter or door knob.”
He believes the media focus too much on the negative angles. For example, he said he believes the media highlight the dangers of hydroxychloroquine as “if it’s a dangerous drug” but “as we speak, all of these people are on hydroxychloroquine for a variety of diseases, things like Lupus, and they do perfectly well. I know tons of doctors using hydroxychloroquine routinely with great success (for other ailments.) It’s now a political drug.” He said that’s unfortunate because it’s safe, and cheap, and easy to get. (Some studies have found it has no effect on COVID-19, however.
Similarly, he said, “Many protocols call for intravenous vitamin C to take advantage of its anti-inflammatory properties and benefits because we’re learning that the inflammation of this virus causes most of the problems.”
On what it’s like to have his video go viral: “It’s crazy town, I don’t have to be right, I believe I am, but I just want my perspective to be out there in the ether so doctors and the general public can look at this different ways.”
He said that’s how medicine is practiced. Doctors look at evidence where it exists, but they also “try different things. We make best guesses based on anecdotal evidence. When we have solid science, we use it. It’s as much of an art as a science.”
Barke said he’s gotten reports of Facebook taking down his video, although others have found it and keep sharing it. “I don’t know what their reason is for taking down the video,” he said. “I am very disturbed by it, however. Whether you agree or disagree isn’t the issue; it’s that my perspective and perspectives like mine are not being given a voice on the mainstream media channels, cable or broadcast news or even print media, and certain not on social media, specifically Facebook and YouTube. That’s really disturbing to me. I believe in what I say, and I think there’s validity to my perspective, but, even if you disagree with me, to shut me down and to censor me is antithetical to our First Amendment.”
However, Facebook told Heavy that they have not removed the video.
He said that he’s a primary care doctor who has treated patients of “all kinds, including those who have this COVID-19 virus.”
He said the scientific data can change in real time, and that he represents “literally thousands of physicians around the country who feel similarly.” (Heavy has reached out to Facebook PR to get comment on the video).
Barke said the video was recorded when he was invited to go to a rally when Riverside County officials were considering the degree to which they should open the county. He said he didn’t have anything prepared and he “spoke from the heart.” His wife recorded the video and put it on social media, where it took off. He said the video has had hundreds of thousands of views and thousands of shares, and added, “It wasn’t my intention to be some social media star. I’m just an average guy, married with two kids, who practices medicine.”
As to whether the virus is more dangerous than the flu, he said, “We won’t know for a long time, six months to a year from now. A lot of statistics are coming in. Initially, when we saw this virus, we saw a 10% mortality rate because the only people being tested were very, very ill. Then, as we started doing more testing, slowly but surely the mortality rate dropped.”
“A lot of people looking at the data are saying, ‘You know what, this may be more infectious and widespread than a typical influenza season, but the mortality rate is in the ballpark and not much higher,’” he said, noting that there are variations and hotspots, such as New York, Seattle, and Italy, but added, “the composite data appears to show the fatality rate of this virus is no worse than a very bad seasonal influenza.”
Of New York, he added, “not one person needed a ventilator who couldn’t get one” and said that Manhattan is a very dense city, with massive public transportation, and people flying in and out from around the globe.
Italy, he said, is a country with direct flights from Wuhan, a much older population, a high number of smokers, nationalized governmental health care, and a touching-based culture.
He said that healthcare workers were dealing with COVID-19 “on top of an already bad flu season.”
He also noted that “doctors are incentivized to code for COVID-19. I am not saying they’re lying, but people can lean in the direction of something benefiting you.”
Challenged on how bad the numbers would be without the lockdowns, though, he said that some people say “had we not had these lockdowns, we might have had millions dead” but noted “we don’t know.” He thinks “we would have had more deaths quickly but also reached herd immunity and quieted things down more quickly. My belief is that the area under the curve would be identical whether we shut the economy down or let it be to reach herd immunity.”
He said that he would have locked down only areas where the hospital system was overwhelmed or close to it, like New York. But he said that hospitals throughout the country have “massive capacity.” He said his hospital system has about 200 ventilators with one-two patients on them, but they previously shut down elective surgeries, furloughed nurses, and are “ghost towns.” He doesn’t believe quarantining makes sense now that we have the healthcare capacity. “There is zero reason to continue to quarantine the healthy,” he said.
Barke says that herd immunity “exposes the youngest and healthiest of our herd to go out into the community and open the economy.”
He cited the effects of lockdowns, such as economic impact and rising suicide and domestic violence levels.
“I think the lockdowns should have been limited initially,” he said, as opposed to so widespread. He believes the handling of COVID-19 will eventually be judged by history to be the “largest mistakes ever made by governments in the world.”
If he were proposing solutions in his own area, Orange County, he would base it on the local healthcare system having “tons of capacity” and would “leave it up to local businesses,” creating a panel to “give them guidance.” He would prevent large gatherings, such as at stadiums, at least at first. He would focus on a testing strategy and would “aggressively open up the economy as quickly as I could. A lot of us believe in the words written in the Constitution. It was never designed to restrain a free people. It was designed to restrain government.” He would work to protect the “most vulnerable” from COVID-19.
Dr. Barke added that he does believe that COVID-19 seems more contagious than past flu viruses. He said that children have the strongest immune system, yet we closed down schools and put them on quarantine, and he said America does not have a tradition of “quarantining the healthy.” He would research the science behind any vaccine before considering whether to take it.
He indicated that he’s starting a charter school, serves as a reserve law enforcement officer, and wears a lot of hats. Since the video went viral, he’s received “vicious attacks online,” including people posting that they hope he dies from the virus or people threatening to call the medical board on him.
Heavy reached out to Sciline, which connects journalists with experts on COVID-19, to ask about other experts’ views on herd immunity, masks, and quarantining, and Sciline sent back links to round ups of expert quotes on the topics. Here are some of them:
“What is herd immunity and what portion of the population needs COVID-19 antibodies in order to achieve it?” (Read the full paper here. It also deals with expert views on antibodies.)
“Herd immunity refers to having enough immune individuals that a virus cannot spread rapidly and infect large numbers of people. The necessary threshold for effective herd immunity depends on the contagiousness of the virus: for example, measles is extremely contagious, and thus at least 90% of people need to be vaccinated to prevent outbreaks. Experts have estimated a herd immunity of 60-70% would probably provide benefit against COVID-19. The United States is a long way from this; even with 1 million proven cases, if those tested account for only 10% of all cases, the total number of individuals with demonstrated immunity would still be less than 10% of the US population.”
— John Williams, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh; Director, i4Kids; Chief, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (Posted 5/6/2020)
“Population immunity—or herd protection—describes the phenomenon of enough people in a community becoming immune to a germ so that when the germ is introduced, say from someone traveling from ‘outside the herd,’ the germ doesn’t take hold but meets a dead end because of immunity in most of the people. We have no way of knowing yet how many in a population have to be immune or partially immune to the virus to achieve some type of protection, but we do know that as more and more people become immune, the number of individual people that are infected for every one case of COVID-19 will go down considerably. Take chickenpox as an example. Imagine a class of 4th graders. There are 15 students in the class, all of whom have been vaccinated for chickenpox. If a new student comes to the school and happens to have chickenpox, the virus has nowhere to go because of the immunity of the classroom. No outbreak occurs, and all is well. But what If only 12 students have been vaccinated? Now that one original case will likely become 4 cases. This is why population immunity is so important – it’s the most surefire way to stop germs in their tracks.”
— C. Buddy Creech, MD, MPH, Director, Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program, Associate Professor, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Medical Center (5/6/2020)
“This depends, but usually more than 70% of the population needs antibodies to achieve herd immunity.”
— Arturo Casadevall MD, PhD, Chair of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (5/6/2020)
“We’re trying to obtain something called herd immunity – the concept that there are enough people in a group of people that are immune to a disease. Those who haven’t yet had the disease could keep themselves from getting infected because everybody around them has already had it and are no longer going to be infectious. And so there’s calculations around how this is measured that has to do with the transmission of the disease itself… Generally, for this disease – for COVID-19 – we’d probably want to see between 60 to 70% of the population being immune before we can say we’re comfortable. I think others may give you other numbers, but that’s the general sense.”
— Nahid Bhadelia, MD, MA, Medical Director, Special Pathogens Unit, Boston University School of Medicine (Posted 5/7/2020)
Here’s the Sciline expert roundup on masks. The quotes from other experts show a variety of opinions on the topic, from it being unclear to masks preventing some harm to concern that masks could give a false sense of security or encourage people to touch their faces more.
Here is one quote with a countering view:
“Facemasks, in particular improvised ones, are relatively cheap and easy to deploy population-wide. They could therefore be particularly relevant for low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) where other personal protection is often unattainable, provided potential harms can be avoided.”
— Joint statement by Peter Teunis, Visiting Biostatistician at Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta GA and Marianne AB van der Sande, MD, MPH, PhD, Head of the Department of Public Health, Professor of Public Health Epidemiology, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium and Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Julius Global Health, UMCU, Utrecht, Netherlands (Posted on 4/9/2020)
Here is the Sciline roundup of expert quotes on ending isolation/quarantining. The opinions range from it being okay to relax social distancing in some areas to waiting for expanded testing to predicting an inevitable second wave of infection if lockdowns are lifted.