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Ickes: Scott County medical director is our Dr. Fauci. It's time to heed his advice.
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Ickes: Scott County medical director is our Dr. Fauci. It's time to heed his advice.

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If you appreciate frankness, today's your lucky day.

Dr. Louis Katz is an infectious disease specialist and medical director for the Scott County Health Department. We have for months been counting on Dr. Katz to inform us of developments related to the appearance early this year of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

"My job is to prevent illness and death," Katz summarized of his 40-plus-year medical career.

If you're skeptical of his professional chops or the expertise of Dr. Anthony Fauci, you're not going to like what Katz has to say. And that makes you the ideal audience.

For starters, doctors are unlike politicians in one important way: They acknowledge their mistakes.

Some of the nation's leading conspiracy theorists point to the early dismissal of the effectiveness of face coverings against COVID as evidence that Fauci is incompetent or his motives impure.

"Fauci, the CDC, WHO, me — we all did that," Katz said. "I was very skeptical about masking for weeks and weeks and weeks.

"We were wrong. We didn't realize or appreciate the impact of asymptomatic transmission."

As the virus spread, medicine and science reacted to new information. In the case of COVID, the reactions were instantaneous — out of necessity, desperation and transparency.

"In the 40 years I've been doing bugs (infectious disease), we've never had this level of epidemiology being done in public," Katz said. "It's all been in real time."

As we've learned and witnessed more over the months about the spread of the virus, medicine and science have tried to keep up. Nobody likes it, but the latest evidence shows we're in real trouble.

"I think we should shut down again — just start all over," Katz said Friday. "Three times as many people have died in these months than on the battlefield in Vietnam. It's astounding to me."

Also astounding is the latent, stubborn response by public leaders, including the president and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, he said.

"In early June, Scott County was having four cases a day. We've had spikes as high as 76 this month," he said. "If people would say how many deaths are acceptable, I could calibrate my approach."

Even as Iowa rises in the ranks of high-infection rate states, Reynolds demands that even higher COVID cases must be proven before she permits schools to delay reopening. Her loyalty to President Donald Trump is her chief concern, Katz said.

"Trump hijacked this as a conspiracy to cost him the election," he said. "I believe that. The CDC is there to coordinate an effective response, and they're not allowed to do that. It's unbelievable."

In the absence of enforceable public policy on masks and safe spacing, Katz protects himself with fact-based precautions.

"In the past 14 days, I've been to Home Depot once and picked up my order in the parking lot," he said. "I walked, masked, into HyVee at 7 a.m. one morning and was there less than five minutes.

"I get gas at Costco and use hand sanitizer after pumping my gas."

Yet scores of Quad-Citians and other Americans go on as if no threat exists. And the numbers show their wrong-mindedness is costing our economy and our health.

"They ignored us all in the beginning, and they're ignoring us now," Katz said. "I think the only answer is on Nov. 3 (election day). Throw the bastards out."

I promised frankness.

This public-health expert didn't arrive at the first meeting on the new coronavirus with a political ax to grind. It has been an acquired distaste for the dangerously cavalier attitude that ignoring this massive problem is somehow the answer to resolving it. It ain't.

And how did we get to this place in history in which everything is a fight, and science, medicine and truth are scorned by so many who insist they know better?

"It's the nature of what's been happening over the past few years," Katz said. "There are more idiots now than there used to be.

"Actually, I think they've always been there. They just kept their mouths shut. November 3rd — that's the answer."

In the absence of smart, sensible leadership in too many corners of our world, we now are left to watch how many survive the wait.

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