Dangerous COVID-19 misinformation, similar to a false claim that was previously cut from another Sinclair Broadcast Group program following Media Matters’ reporting, was broadcast on Monday to 68 Sinclair-owned or -operated stations nationwide by Sinclair’s new morning news program The National Desk during its premiere episode.
Sinclair launched The National Desk on January 18, claiming anchor Jan Jeffcoat will “provide audiences with commentary-free news coverage from both a local and national perspective,” with contributions from local and national Sinclair reporters. According to Sinclair’s press release, the program airs every weekday morning “across the country and will be available on 68 Sinclair stations, including all Sinclair's MY and CW Network channels.”
But during its first episode, Jeffcoat provided her audience with dangerous misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, by now a regular occurrence on Sinclair’s airwaves. Jeffcoat and her guest -- a surgeon who also works as a senior fellow at the right-leaning Cato Institute -- specifically and falsely suggested that lockdowns are ineffective in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. They then called for the economy to reopen even as the U.S. was approaching 400,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
While Jeffcoat and Singer are correct that there are economic costs and trade-offs to the coronavirus lockdowns, they are misleading about their effectiveness -- they do, in fact, save lives. In an NPR report, assistant professor Ana Bento of the Indiana University Bloomington School of Public Health explained that lockdowns “do work as a measure of last resort” to “break the chain of transmission, which reduces the probability of people getting infected and lightens the load on the health care system.” NPR further reported:
Much has changed since the spring, but evidence shows those lockdowns were quite effective.
For example, Delaware's stay-at-home order dramatically changed the course of the state's outbreak after being implemented in mid-April. That policy decision, along with a mask mandate and contact tracing, led to an 88% reduction in COVID-19 hospitalizations and a 100% drop in mortality from late April to June, according to a recent analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Another study found that, in many places, shelter-in-place orders and closing restaurants, bars and entertainment venues did substantially slow the spread of the virus.
A Reuters fact check similarly reported that “studies show COVID-19 lockdowns have saved lives.” In the article, Reuters explained that it “contacted two experts, Dr. Elizabeth Stuart, Associate Dean for Education at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Dr. Stuart Ray, infectious disease expert with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Both confirmed that lockdowns do reduce transmission of the SARS-Cov-2 and highlighted that a more ‘targeted’ or ‘proportional’ approach of restrictions can mitigate the risk of infection, while balancing other concerns about the economy and mental health.”
Again, it is flatly false for Sinclair’s Jeffcoat and her guest to say that lockdowns aren’t effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. But this isn’t the first time this lie has been told on a Sinclair program. After Media Matters reported in October that Sinclair host Eric Bolling falsely claimed in a monologue that “closing down cities and economies and wearing your tube socks around your face hasn't slowed the virus down,” Sinclair edited his monologue to remove that line before it aired on Sinclair-owned or -operated stations nationwide.
Unfortunately, that can’t happen in this instance because this time, the coronavirus misinformation was broadcast live. This demonstrates the danger of Sinclair producing and broadcasting its own allegedly “commentary-free” live news program while it continues to function as a conservative propaganda outlet.