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Cue the debunking: Two California doctors go viral with dubious COVID test conclusions

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Cue the debunking: Two California doctors go viral with dubious COVID test conclusions

Bakersfield Drs. Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi from Accelerated Urgent Care held a press conference at their Coffee Road facility on April 22. They claimed their COVID testing proved the novel coronavirus had spread widely in the region and was thus less of a concern, but public health experts say they were jumping to that conclusion based on an unrepresentative sample. (Alex Horvath / The Californian) They dressed in scrubs. They sounded scientific. And last week’s message from two Bakersfield doctors was exactly what many stuck-at-home Americans wanted to hear: COVID-19 is no worse than influenza, its death rates are low and we should all go back to work and school.

Drs. Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi, who own urgent care centers in the region, had called a press conference to release their conclusions about the results of 5,213 COVID-19 tests they had conducted at their centers and testing site. They claimed the results showed that the virus had spread further in the area, undetected, and thus wasn’t all that dangerous.

But public health experts were quick to debunk the doctors’ findings as misguided and riddled with statistical errors — and an example of the kind of misleading information they are forced to waste precious time disputing.

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The doctors should never have assumed that the patients they tested — who came for walk-in COVID-19 tests or who sought urgent care for symptoms they experienced in the middle of a pandemic — are representative of the general population, said Dr. Carl Bergstrom, a University of Washington biologist who specializes in infectious disease modeling. He likened their extrapolations to “estimating the average height of […]

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