Dr. Phil McGraw doubled down on his shocking comments about reopening the country amid the coronavirus pandemic during a May 6 interview on The Talk. McGraw, who is not a medical doctor and has not had a license to practice psychology since 2006, said that though 74,000 Americans have now died of COVID-19, we take “risks” every day; forcing Americans to remain in quarantine, in McGraw’s opinion, could be just as dangerous as the novel disease. “We consciously decide to live with risk, McGraw told the co-hosts. “We live with automobile risks, drug risks, cigarette risks… I know it’s not contagious, but cigarettes is [sic] addictive. But we make the conscious decision to accept risks.
“Our risk of the coronavirus is never going to get to zero. We cannot ignore the fact that quarantine doesn’t come with zero risk. We have to pay attention. We lose 7000 lives a year to social factors — such as poverty, low education, low social support. And we just live with that. These are acceptable casualties, apparently.” McGraw was roundly criticized for these views after an April 16 interview on The Ingraham Angle, in which he inflated the mortality rates for the “risks” to compare to coronavirus casualties. To put it in perspective, roughly 40,000 people die in car accidents in the United States per year. In the three weeks between McGraw’s two interviews, nearly 40,000 have died in the United States of COVID-19.
McGraw believes that continued isolation and social-distancing will negatively affect mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, and that quarantine should be lifted to prevent tragedy. “I don’t want us to overdo being in quarantine. We don’t need to be rushing out irresponsibly, but we need to do this in as little time as possible in quarantine, because it has a huge backlash,” he explained on The Talk. “What I’m talking about are the mental, emotional aspects of this [that] are key for us. So as we get back into the world, we need to do it understanding that people are now experiencing anxiety, depression, PTSD, and they’re fearful of the world.”
His proposal: “follow the science” and reopen the country “in a step-wise fashion. If there are surges [of coronavirus infections], then we pull back.” The TV doctor acknowledged that he is not a medical doctor nor infectious disease expert, but claimed that he has spoken to “15 experts” who agree with him. He did not name these individuals.
Dr. Lucy Wilson, an infectious disease physician and professor of emergency health services at the University of Maryland, however, recently told CNN that reopening isn’t recommended yet. “Americans must be made aware of the likelihood the country will have a resurgence in heightened levels of disease activity and death and this will necessitate returning to earlier stages of strict social distancing,” Wilson said.
McGraw also suggested on The Talk that people took issue with his interview because it was conducted on Fox News. “I really think that it got a lot of attention, not because of what I said, but where I said it,” The Dr. Phil host complained. “I’ve done 75 different appearances talking about the mental, emotional aspects of being in quarantine… I hate that this is being politicized. I’m the most non-political person that I think you can find on television.”