Questioning Conventional Wisdom In The COVID-19 Crisis, With Dr. Jay Bhattacharya

interview with Jay Bhattacharya
Tuesday, March 31, 2020

To watch the video, click here.

TRANSCRIPT ONLY

Peter Robinson: In this strange time when so many of us are shut up in our homes, suppose you had the opportunity to ask somebody questions who knew exactly what was happening outside. Suppose he was an MD who understood the coronavirus in detail, and that he held a doctorate in economics that enabled him to understand the economic implications of the virus, that describes my own position right now. I'm about to speak with Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Professor of Medicine and my friend right here at Stanford. Jay, thanks for making the time to join us.

Jay Bhattacharya: My pleasure, Peter. 

Peter Robinson: This is a special plague time edition of Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson. I'm Peter Robinson. Jay's in his office because he's considered an essential worker, I'm at home because whatever else I am, I'm not essential. And so we're recording this thing online. Jay, here's the first question. How bad is it? You published a piece in The Wall Street Journal this past Tuesday, March 24th, we're recording this on Friday, quote, "If it's true that the coronavirus would kill millions without shelter-in-place orders "and quarantines, then the extraordinary measures "are surely justified, but there's little evidence "to confirm that premise." Explain that.

Jay Bhattacharya: Yeah, so I think, the key thing to know about the virus and how much we know about it is that we actually don't know how many people have been infected. It's a very strange thing to say given how much data is floating around, and it sounds like it's a remarkable thing, but it's actually just a plain scientific fact. And that has to do with the fact that the testing for the virus has focused on people who actively have the virus. The tests have been used everywhere, that's what it does, it looks and sees if the RNA of the virus is in you, and if it's in you, then it's positive, if it's not in you, it's negative. And then, that's that, right? But this is not like HIV where if you get the virus, you have it for life. Most people, there's a range of presentations. You get the virus, you get some symptoms, and then you're better, and the virus is gone. And the test would be negative, someone like that. But there's increasing evidence that someone like that would probably be immune to being reinfected.

Peter Robinson: So when we talk about the, not the fatality rate, what is it called, the rate of lethality? That's a ratio, it's a mathematical ratio in which the numerator is very sadly the number of people who die, and the denominator is those who have been tested, right?

Jay Bhattacharya: That's the measured case fatality rate.

Peter Robinson: All right, the measured case fatality rate.

Jay Bhattacharya: And the problem is that denominator does not count the people who got infected and were recovered.

Peter Robinson: All right, two quotations, Jay. Here's Dr. Anthony Fauci, we all know he's as famous as the president right now. He's the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and here he is in early March, just a couple of weeks ago, quote, "The flu, has a mortality rate of 0.1%," 1/10 of 1%. "This," meaning the coronavirus, "has a mortality rate of 10 times that." close quote. Here's Dr. Jay Bhattacharya in his piece in The Wall Street Journal, again, this is March 24th, just a couple of days ago, quote, and you're talking about, when you think the first, the virus was first seeded in this country, quote, "An epidemic seed on January 1st implies "that by March 9th, about six million people in the US "would have been infected. "As of March 23rd," it's that Monday of this week, "there were 499 COVID-19 deaths in the US. "That's a mortality rate of 0.01%." In other words, a whole order of magnitude less than Dr.Fauci claimed just a couple of weeks earlier.

Jay Bhattacharya: I think, the thing is, nobody knows the number. The numbers we've seen are consistent with a very, very wide range from an epidemic that will kill two to four million people on one end and an epidemic that will kill 50,000 to 100,000 people on the other. That's an incredibly broad range and the policies you do to avoid two to four million deaths are very, very different than the policies you do to avoid 50,000 to 100,000 deaths.

Peter Robinson: All right, so let's clear up. Let's clear up, actually I thought, I think, I know you'll, I think I know how you'll answer this, but maybe I'm not sure. What's Dr.Fauci up to when he says this is 10 times more lethal than the flu? He cannot know that, he should not be saying that. He cannot know, can he?

Jay Bhattacharya: He doesn't know.

Peter Robinson: He doesn't know.

Jay Bhattacharya: Yeah, and he can't know because nobody has done that, it has already started with like this serologic testings, how many people in the population have antibodies to the virus? So that's what you need to know.

Peter Robinson: Okay so.

Jay Bhattacharya: No test is done like that. So we can't know that, nobody knows that. So he's reflecting his guess on what that is, and I'm reflecting my guess on what it is. The fact is neither of us know it. Neither of us know that number, because there's no scientific test yet done or a scientific study done to establish that number in any broad population.

Peter Robinson: So what do we need to know, I mean, this is this just strikes me. This is a little on the mind-boggling side. You're saying, and it seems to me just irrefutable. nobody can know the ratio, unless they have a true measure of the denominator in the ratio, you just can't, it's mathematically meaningless or if it's not meaningless, if the denominator is people who've been tested, you know are sick, then maybe you could say, at least that's an upper bound on the lethality, but it's not it's not an accurate measure of how lethal this coronavirus is at all. All right, so I'm a little bit astounded, maybe, unless you tell me I shouldn't be that they've shut down the economy without knowing quite what they're doing.

Jay Bhattacharya: I mean, I think--

Peter Robinson: Am I, am I--

Jay Bhattacharya: No, I'm astounded as well.

Peter Robinson: You are.

Jay Bhattacharya: 'Cause here's the thing, I think that there is a lot of disagreement within the scientific community about exactly what that number is.

Peter Robinson: People of goodwill.

Jay Bhattacharya: Yes.

Peter Robinson: Intelligent people.

Jay Bhattacharya: There's very bright people, friends of mine, who I respect very highly that disagree very strongly with me about what that number is. They don't know it and I don't know it. We should be honest about that. And we should be honest about that with people who make these policy decisions when we're making them. In a sense, like people plug the worst case into their models, they project forward and say two to four million deaths, newspapers pick up the two to four million deaths, politicians have to respond. And that scientific basis for that projection is completely, there isn't, there's no study underlying that scientific projection in the sense of that number, that denominator of that number doesn't exist. You don't know it.

Peter Robinson: All right, so we know, we know why the press does what it does because it is in their interest to attract ratings, sell newspapers, magazines, and so forth, so the press from the beginning of the press, 150 years ago, the modern press has tended toward the sensation, we get that. We understand that once you get the public very concerned, politicians must respond, we get that. But right back at the beginning is a gap, we don't know how lethal it is. What do we need to do to find out?

Jay Bhattacharya: Yeah, so we have to run studies, and that's what I've been working on the last couple of weeks, basically full-time, which is three weeks full time. So, what you need is a sample of people in the population. I mean, essentially representative of the population, some population. You need a test that can measure antibodies in the blood and those are actually only been approved in the last week and so in the US.

Peter Robinson: So tell me right there, stop there for a moment if you would, distinguish between the kind of tests you're talking about now and the kinds of tests that the President has been talking about in his press conferences for 10 days or two weeks now, saying, "We're shipping more and more tests. "We're going to get more tests out to the public." These are two different kinds of tests, is that correct?

Jay Bhattacharya: So there's two, like the one kind of test is called the PCR test, a polymerase chain reaction test. The PCR test measures DNA, it's an RNA virus, there's one step, but that's technical point. The key thing is, it measures whether the virus is in you and it's useful potentially for clinical, like if I wanna distinguish between COVID-19 and a flu, I can do a PCR test and I can know, "Okay, you don't have COVID-19, you likely have the flu, "I'm gonna treat you differently."

Peter Robinson: So if you're in an urgent care clinic or an emergency room, this test is very valuable.

Jay Bhattacharya: Yeah, it's useful. I mean, it's useful information if you're caring for a patient. If you wanna know in the population how many people have had it and recovered from it, you wanna know the denominator, you have to have the antibody test. The test that measures how you've reacted to the virus getting in you by producing antibodies. How many people have had evidence that they've had the virus in them already and recovered from it or not? You need both in the denominator. And so, with the antibody test, you can get the denominator for the population fatality rate, anything in the population. It's only in the last week and some that they become available. The FDA, I think, approved the first ones only a little while ago.

Peter Robinson: All right, and then so if, when you say testing populations, well--

Jay Bhattacharya: It's like a survey, right?

Peter Robinson: The President, that's what I was about to say. The President keep talking about we're at war. This is a campaign. Well, we know how we handle surveys and political campaigns. There's polling going on all the time. You poll in the state, you poll in the city, you put together a representative sample for the entire nation and you do it two or three times a day, between start date and whatever election day it is, and is that the kind of testing that you would like to see taking place?

Jay Bhattacharya: Yeah, I mean, it's a little, hopefully, I mean, a lot of polls are, let's just, Peter, I owe this to you, in all honesty, so I'm gonna say upfront, 'cause I'm gonna steal it from you directly, from our early conversation, if you just polled Democrats, the President looks absolutely terrible. If you just polled Republicans, the President looks pretty good. Neither test tells you, I mean, that tells you about the population of polling. All samples that you draw tell you about the population that they're drawn from. What we want for this is we want a representative population of Americans and actually more than that because the virus is deadly when the healthcare resources in an area overwhelmed to care for the people who really get sick with it. There are a lot and this is a deadly virus, make no mistake, I hope, I never. I hope no one gets confused by that. It's absolutely deadly virus. So, what you want is the healthcare resource, that the ICU doctors, the ICU beds, the ventilators, all that should be available for the people who really, really, really get sick. So what you want is not just population representative of a nation as a whole but my local areas, so you can see where the places are most likely, where the demand for the ICU bed is gonna be highest. Move resources into there, try to relieve some of the pressure 'cause that's what really kills with this virus.

Peter Robinson: All right, so I have, here's Holman Jenkins in the Wall Street Journal. I think, he published this a day or two before your own piece appeared. I found it very striking. Layman that I am, and as you know, that means I'm carrying all kinds of confused thoughts around in between my ears, but layman that I am, I thought the whole reason for this shutdown, the shelter-at-home, shelter-in-place approach was that somehow or other, the virus would die out, and then we could all open the doors and go out into the sun-filled air again. Holman Jenkins write this, "We are crushing our economy," meaning, telling everybody to leave work and stay at home, "We're crushing our economy simply to meter out "how quickly the consequences fall "on our exhausted health care workers. "I repeat, we are slowing the economy to a crawl "to slow the rate of a thing happening "that will have to happen anyway." Close quote, is that correct?

Jay Bhattacharya: It's partly correct and partly incorrect. The part that's incorrect is it doesn't have to be the case that our healthcare workers are overwhelmed, right? That they could just be worked, they could just be whelmed, if you will, just to the point where they can deal with it and that's it. If you have, like, I think, Italy is a case study of what happens when a healthcare system is overwhelmed with this virus.

Peter Robinson: And by overwhelmed, that too could be put almost in mathematical terms in the sense that you simply have more patients, more patients who are in serious trouble and apparently most of the trouble is respiratory, they're having trouble breathing, more patients than you have ventilators to keep them alive. Is that correct?

Jay Bhattacharya: That's right so and I don't think that's where we are. I mean, New York has enough ventilators. I think, it may not have enough ICU doctors, I don't think Italy's gonna recur in the US, so, I don't know 'cause I don't know that denominator in order to do the right projections. I think, so it's not that, so you wanna, of a sample of the population at large so you know how the disease is going, but you also want local representative samples from all over the place, just like in a presidential election, you want polls in every state 'cause it's not just a nationwide referendum.

Peter Robinson: And Jay, what's the timeline on that? How is the public health professional, that's you, how soon do you believe you'll have the information you need to decide which kind of rate, whether you're correct that the mortality rate is very low, or whether those colleagues of yours with whom you're disputing this are correct and the mortality rate is actually quite high. How soon?

Jay Bhattacharya: I'm hoping to, so we've been working very, very hard. Things has happened as far as moving studies along in the last two or three weeks that normally would have taken years. People are like, there's a lot of standards today and a lot of concern about this and people are mobilizing incredible ways to do this. I'm hoping that if we can get, we've got volunteers who offered up 15,000 tests. We will have a live survey in Santa Clara County and in LA County, I hope next week, if the tests arrive as we plan. There's groups that have offered up four million tests. We might be able to take this nationwide.

Peter Robinson: And these are the new serological, if I'm using the correct term.

Jay Bhattacharya: Serologic test, the antibody test, yeah.

Peter Robinson: The antibody test, that's the term for it.

Jay Bhattacharya: So these are the new tests. There's still a lot that can go wrong. I mean, the tests might not arrive, they might have bad test characteristics. There's a lot we have to check to make sure that we're not producing junk numbers, but if things go right, I'm hoping in two weeks, we'll know in LA and Santa Clara, the population problems and then within a month, by the end of April, we'll know for the country at large.

Peter Robinson: All right.

Jay Bhattacharya: A lot of things have to happen, right, including finding funding for these, people volunteering their time and their effort but it's still very, very challenging thing to do with nationwide sample.

Peter Robinson: Well, wait a minute, when you say finding the funding, the Congress just passed a $2.2 trillion bill without funding for this kind of necessary research?

Jay Bhattacharya: I mean, I think the, I don't know 'cause I haven't looked carefully at the bill. I really haven't had time to read it. I don't know that they have it.

Peter Robinson: I'm hoping that on page 887, section three subsection Z, it says, "Give Bhattacharya whatever he needs."

Jay Bhattacharya: I don't know, I'm pretty sure it doesn't say that but I think, I do think, I don't care if I do the study. I just want the study done, we need this number.

Peter Robinson: All right, but it could be, we could begin to get results you would consider meaningful in a matter of a couple of weeks.

Jay Bhattacharya: Two weeks to a month, I think, we'll know much, we'll have some results starting to roll in for this.

Peter Robinson: All right.

Jay Bhattacharya: For my role.

Peter Robinson: And if you're suspicion that the mortality. I'm sure I'm using the wrong term, but the death rate, the fatality, if your suspicion that it's not more lethal than the flu but substantially less lethal than the flu, if that suspicion is confirmed, what should we begin to do differently?

Jay Bhattacharya: Well, I think the universal quarantine, essentially that's what we have. It's incredibly costly. Costly that and the people have characterized as costly to the economy, and so you get accused of being crass 'cause you're comparing for dollars with people's lives, right?

Peter Robinson: Yes, yes.

Jay Bhattacharya: I mean, I'm actually kind of sympathetic to that, but actually it's not just dollars to lives, it's lives to lives, right? A global economic collapse will cost lives of, I believe, millions of people, and not just the United States, I mean, worldwide, right?

Peter Robinson: How do people die? If I get sick and I stopped breathing, I understand why I die. If suddenly we're all poor, I mean, what is it, in my lifetime the GDP has quadrupled? Well, we go back to 1950s levels of standards of living, what's wrong with that? What's the mechanism that kills people?

Jay Bhattacharya: Even in the last, the Great Recession 10 years ago which I think the one that's coming might be, might, like people will stop calling it great. There were huge numbers of people who died from depression, opioid overdose, these deaths of despair. That's a mechanism that's, I know how unique it is to US, but it's certainly in a lot of developed countries that you have things like that where you don't have any purpose in life and you spiral downward. I think, there's that. In other poor countries, some of the diseases and conditions that used to, are slowly going away as life expectancy goes up, would come back. I mean, there's no there's no iron law that says that if, I mean, that income is gonna continue going up for GDPs and go forever, right? If there's a global depression, their country and that will face enormous difficulties caring for the health of their populations.

Peter Robinson: You still have family back in India. What happens in India?

Jay Bhattacharya: I'm scared to death of it. I got cousins, I mean, I don't know. I think, a global, it's so, the rise in GDP worldwide has pulled billions of people, I think, out of poverty and raised life expectancy everywhere. If that gets reversed, the flip side is that means lots and lots of lives shortened unnecessarily. I think, that's the flip side to remember, is it's not just dollars versus lives, it's lives versus lives.

Peter Robinson: All right, so, in practical terms, if we stop quarantining, what would you do differently if you discovered the lethality rate is .01, instead of .1? You'd say, "Robinson, get back to work," or you'd say, "No, no no, you're still high risk "but send your kids to work." What are the kinds of decisions you make that reopen the economy?

Jay Bhattacharya: A targeted quarantine could make some sense. And actually once you have a test, an antibody test, you're positive, Peter, you can go to work, even though we both have gray hair, we could go back to work.

Peter Robinson: Meaning that if you once you have this and clear it, you're immune at that point?

Jay Bhattacharya: That seems like what the evidence is suggesting. Now, there's still some work that have to be done, even to verify that. But just the other day, a couple days ago, there was a report in JAMA, the primary, the main, the top Journal of the American Medical Association, one of the top journals in the US in medicine, they reported that people who have the disease recover from it, you take their serum out.

Peter Robinson: Yes.

Jay Bhattacharya: Spin it down, isolate the antibodies to the virus, then inject it in people who are really, really sick with a virus, it helps cure.

Peter Robinson: Okay, so all right, two weeks through a month, I'm coming back to the practical timeline. I'm thinking to myself, if Jay's right, what am I gonna be reading in the newspaper and when am I going to be reading it? We'll begin to get the good, that is to say important data in two weeks to a month if all goes well.

Jay Bhattacharya: If I'm right, it'll be, I don't think it's good news, if I'm wrong, which, I mean, I just wanna make clear, I could very well be. This is a scientific dispute over a test, over a study that's still not to be done, right?

Peter Robinson: Right, right.

Jay Bhattacharya: I don't know if that's gonna be, If I'm wrong, and you let's say, it's only 1% of the population, then we have to make some very very tough choices, right? 'Cause you can't eradicate it if it's, let's say, it's 1% or 2% of the populate, you can't eradicate the whole thing. You can't just isolate and it'll stop spreading all together. It's not zero spread when you have a quarantine in place order, slow spread. I think then, we have to decide someplace as we let off the gas and let people start going back to work where the health care system can manage the thing. We have to work really hard on getting a vaccine going. I mean, it'll be some very difficult choices at that time, on that number, and we need to know that number.

Peter Robinson: So you just mentioned, what about treatments? Again, just a general for the layman, rough feeling timeline for treatments? The President has mentioned this combination of hydrochloride, if I'm pronouncing that correctly and azithromycin seems to, there's, and then Dr.Fauci called that anecdotal evidence. Is there evidence of treatments that at least control symptoms and how quickly can that stuff be tested and rolled out for use?

Jay Bhattacharya: I mean, people are working on, actually, I have a little study to see, I will see if it gets done 'cause I don't have a ton of time to look at it but on checking whether that actually does work or not, I think, that's still the, we still have to wait for the results on that.

Peter Robinson: All right, and the serum therapy, where we identify people who've recovered and draw blood from them, and then administer their plasma to ill people, how far off is that? Can we do that?

Jay Bhattacharya: There was that study I just told you about was five people, published in JAMA two days ago. I mean, Pete, I have to say I've been very impressed with the ingenuity and cleverness of my colleagues in trying to find new ways to treat this and find risk factors, and we've learned a ton about this in a very short time,

Peter Robinson: Actually, that's that, let me ask you a little bit about that because so many of us are just sitting at home. I'm trying to remain useful typing away on my computer, but you look out the, it just feels as though the country is at a halt. But you're in your office, you're in touch with the profession, there's activity of all kinds taking place within the medical profession. Is that correct?

Jay Bhattacharya: Yeah, I mean people are very hard at work. It's like, it's war. I mean, what the President said is right in that sense. I mean, I haven't taken a weekend day, I've been coming in. I just, I think I feel like in a war, and the world, and the enemy's the virus.

Peter Robinson: Jay, what about a vaccine? What about the ultimate treatment? What about something that just ends this? Is that months, years?

Jay Bhattacharya: I mean, it's a technically a very challenging thing and certain once you have something you think is a vaccine, then demonstrating that actually works is also a challenging thing. I mean, who knows? I hope I'm wrong, but I would guess years.

Peter Robinson: Years, all right, Jay. A few last questions, your piece in The Wall Street Journal appeared as we speak today, it appeared four days ago, right? Tuesday, yes, it appeared four days ago, what's the response to that been?

Jay Bhattacharya: It's been overwhelming. I don't normally do shows like this, Peter, as you know. I'm not used to being in front of the camera, if you will, but I think, it's been overwhelming. A lot of my colleagues have written in support. I get the sense that a lot of people that were thinking this way already, and were uncomfortable with the definitive proclamations of the modeling that we'd see. I think, there's a lot of people, there's also a lot of people that, for whatever reason, don't like the fact that I said what I said.

Peter Robinson: Oh really?

Jay Bhattacharya: Yeah.

Peter Robinson: May I ask what is it that people think you're saying things that are dangerous, that will voice false hopes?

Jay Bhattacharya: There's some of this like, "Jay, get with the program." I think, literally, I can find an email that says that. "You're being irresponsible "by putting out information like this at a time "when we're in crisis," that kind of thing. I don't know, my reaction to this is we have a obligation as, I mean, there's a cloak of authority that happens when the litany of those horrible--

Peter Robinson: You are a professor of medicine at Stanford University.

Jay Bhattacharya: Therefore, you should believe me. I mean, I think we have a very, very strong responsibility to be utterly honest as we can be about what we know and we don't know, especially if we have that cloak of authority and I think that, I think, to some extent, we haven't been, the profession hasn't been as honest as it could have been upfront about where that certainly was. Now, I don't, this is a little bit, maybe I've gone too far 'cause it may be that people just honestly, there wasn't uncertainty about this. I don't know, it's hard for me to distinguish.

Peter Robinson: All right, the outbreak of a pandemic, it's taking everybody by surprise. There were all kinds of political recriminations, "Trump should have done this, "the whole country should have known that. "We should have stockpiled this, that." Fine, the fact is, it took everybody by surprise. Is this the new normal or is this like the 1918 influenza, a once a century event or now that we have constant airline travel, a networked world, should we expect this every year, every decade, every quarter century?

Jay Bhattacharya: I think, we've had already last 20 years. We had H1N1, we had SARS, we had avian flu, we had, no, maybe those, sorry, we had Ebola. I think this is the new normal. I think, this is the part of the cost of globalization.

Peter Robinson: I see. 

Jay Bhattacharya: And I think what we need is a 21st century approach to it. I don't think ending globalization is the answer. I think that will kill more people than the viruses will ever will. But a 21st century approach would involve systematically putting in place a surveillance infrastructure that looks at populations that can draw very, very, like these studies that I'm doing right now should just be routine part of surveillance, instead of like the surveillance infrastructure--

Peter Robinson: Jay, can I just, when you use the term surveillance for an old cold warrior like me, that means Tom Clancy novels, it means listening to people's phone conversations. You're using it in a technical sense, you use it differently from the common understanding of the term, I believe. So you'd better explain what you mean by surveillance.

Jay Bhattacharya: Sure.

Peter Robinson: Not Big Brother-y stuff, is it?

Jay Bhattacharya: What I mean, it's like running surveys, except the surveys would involve taking people's blood after they agree to let you have their blood--

Peter Robinson: After they agree, oh, thank you very much.

Jay Bhattacharya: And not a lot of it either, right? So systematically, looking for these diseases, having like these population level samples just sitting there routinely in lab, so they can be analyzed, rather than waiting to see if things comes. And then, I'll just give you a sense with the flu. Flu tracking involves someone sending a test into the CDC lab, the CDC then tests it and says, "Okay, yeah, it's positive." They make an assumption for everyone that's positive in the CDC lab, there's 79 or 80 others that weren't tested, that are positive out there in the population that didn't show up in the lab. That number that 80 to one number is based on guesswork.

Peter Robinson: Right.

Jay Bhattacharya: To some extent. Instead we could have population surveillances all the time. We do this obviously with political polls, but also with social science polls, right? We have a decennial census, that's an example, the entire population, you would wanna to do that. Then we have the American Community Survey done every year which surveys a very large part of the population. The current population study which, that's how we get our unemployment number of the year. It's a big survey where people call up 100,000 people and ask them, "Are you working or not working today?"

Peter Robinson: Right, so Jay, are you, does all this imply a larger role for the federal government? Are we gonna come out of this with some permanent diminishment of our freedoms?

Jay Bhattacharya: The CDC already plays a big role.

Peter Robinson: Yup.

Jay Bhattacharya: They should be doing what they're doing differently. I mean, bigger is not the right word for this.

Peter Robinson: Okay, so this is, we need, it's not necessarily--

Jay Bhattacharya: It's a legitimate function of government, Peter, right? I mean, I think--

Peter Robinson: Yes, no, no, that's what I'm trying to distinguish because there will be political repercussions from all of this. In my judgment, there are some politicians who are enjoying the limelight much too much as it is. All right, last question here. China, South Korea, Italy, the United Kingdom, your own family's country of India, the United States, if from the point of view, two questions, from the point of view, simply from the point of view of physical safety and well-being of all the countries on earth, where would you choose to place yourself and your family right now?

Jay Bhattacharya: Right here.

Peter Robinson: Okay.

Jay Bhattacharya: I think, the United States is well-positioned to, I mean, as long as our healthcare systems don't get overwhelmed, we're gonna be okay.

Peter Robinson: All right, second and final question from the point of view of, you've used the war metaphor yourself, from the point of view of fighting back, the technical and the technical apparatus, the human capital, the infrastructure of medical research institutions, from the point of view of addressing this illness and containing it and ameliorating it, and ultimately curing it, which country would you rather be working in?

Jay Bhattacharya: The US is the number one country for this kind of innovation. China actually has a lot of great scientists too. So I think, the scientific effort to beat this will be a worldwide thing.

Peter Robinson: Oh, it will.

Jay Bhattacharya: Yeah, I don't think it's gonna be just an American thing. I think, America played a very, very important role, but the good ideas are gonna come from everywhere and it's that's it very encouraging.

Peter Robinson: Jay, this is a non-technical question. How long until your own life feels normal again?

Jay Bhattacharya: I hope soon. I mean, you've known me for a long time, Peter. You normally don't see me on a bike around campus. I've been biking to campus every day for fear of someone stopping me and asking for my papers.

Peter Robinson: But you do have papers now. You've been officially declared an essential worker.

Jay Bhattacharya: It says I'm essential, right?

Peter Robinson: Excellent, excellent, that's not by your wife? All right, that's good, all right, no. Jay, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, thank you.

Jay Bhattacharya: Thank you, Peter, it's a real pleasure.

More from Uncommon Knowledge