Mayor of Anchorage Bronson encourages and speaks at COVID-19 rally featuring prominent vaccine skeptics

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The mayor of Anchorage walked onto the stage at ChangePoint’s Church in Alaska on Saturday in a day-long rally featuring national skeptics of mainstream COVID-19 treatments and called their findings “Best science available”.

The Alaska Early Treatment Medical Summit brought together physicians who have been marginalized by many in the medical community for questioning the effectiveness of vaccines and advocating treatments considered unproven, such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

The mayor was instrumental in making the summit happen, according to an introduction by presenter Dr Richard Urso, an ophthalmologist from Houston who was investigated and cleared for prescribing hydroxychloroquine.

“He’s helped organize a lot of what goes on behind the scenes,” Urso told the crowd.

Bronson took the stage to the cheers, applause and a loud cry of “FREEDOM!” “

“Sounds like an assembly meeting,” Bronson joked, alluding to the series of often unruly public hearings on a draft mask mandate that spanned two weeks and was punctuated by explosions and multiple arrests.

A retired professional pilot, the mayor opposes mask mandates and vaccine requirements. Many of the city’s senior health officials resigned in the weeks after he took office in July.

Bronson told the public that his personal doctor, who did not want to be named, had urged his administration to bring the presenters to Anchorage. The mayor said he chose not to publicize his participation at the summit.

“For political reasons, we didn’t want my fingerprints to be everywhere,” he said.

[Mayor Bronson defends use of Holocaust imagery by mask mandate opponents during heated second night of Anchorage Assembly hearing]

Bronson spokesman Corey Allen Young said in an email that the mayor and his staff had been “approached with the timeliness of the event” but did not want to be involved in the planning due to its political mandate. Bronson agreed to attend and speak, he said. No municipal workers were paid for their participation and no municipal funds were used, Young said.

“Because some people disagree with the topics being discussed, they think Mayor Bronson should not be allowed to participate, and it shouldn’t be,” he wrote. “If Mayor Dave Bronson is everyone’s mayor, he should be allowed to attend all types of public forums. “

Bronson – who said “This pandemic – if there was a pandemic – was over last summer,” during a campaign earlier this year – said on Saturday he believed the pandemic was real.

“How we handled it, history is going to judge these doctors very well, these professionals,” he said, referring to Saturday presenters. “And that’s going to judge other people pretty badly, health professionals. I just decided I was going to be on the right side of the story about it.

The mayor said he was “trying to find a political solution” based on science.

“And I’m just here to tell you after a long dinner and meeting with these people, this is the best science available,” Bronson said.

Asked for clarification, Young said Monday the mayor was supporting early treatment instead of “sending people home without a plan.”

Bronson has focused in recent months on the use of monoclonal antibodies, a regimen approved by the federal government and supported by public health authorities for early use in COVID-19 infections.

The summit came as Alaska’s new rate of COVID-19 cases continues to dominate the country and the state’s vaccination rates have slowed since January, when no other state has vaccinated more. people per capita. Hospitals say a high number of COVID-positive patients is compromising their ability to care for everyone.

Anchorage RN Jennifer Meyer, a public health researcher who studies disinformation as an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, watched part of the summit live.

Meyer said she saw “anti-vaxx tactics” and sparked words used for years in Saturday afternoon sessions. She tweeted live a series of fact-checking reviews.

“I worry when vulnerable patients listen to false statements and it could influence their healthcare decisions,” she said. “I kind of feel obligated to voice my concerns ethically, otherwise I don’t practice nursing and nursing is a scientific profession just like public health. “

Meyer expressed her shock when she heard Bronson praise the quality of summit science.

“He’s definitely outside of his expertise and I really wonder what he’s doing,” she said on Monday. “I can’t pretend to know what his intentions are.”

About 1,200 people attended Saturday’s event, according to ticket coordinator Michael Chambers, an artist from Anchorage who said he was part of a small group of organizers. Tickets cost $ 20 each.

“Not bad for 4 days notice !!” Chambers wrote in a message.

Presenters included infectious disease researcher Dr. Robert Malone, who claims to be the inventor of mRNA vaccines when in reality “the path to mRNA vaccines has been based on the work of hundreds of researchers over more than 30 years,” according to a September article in the journal Nature. Malone has drawn criticism for spreading fear about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and questioning their effectiveness.

Another presenter, Dr Ryan Cole, is the subject of a state medical board request for investigation by the Idaho Medical Association for making “numerous public statements in 2020 and 2021, regarding COVID-19 which are in significant contradiction to the commonly understood medical treatment of COVID. -19 and fail to meet community care standards.

Urso helped launch America’s Frontline Doctors, described by The Intercept as a network of fringe healthcare providers who have made millions prescribing ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, as well as online consultations. Cole is also a member of the group, whose videos have been removed from some major social media sites for spreading false information about the vaccine.

Malone and others on Saturday urged the public not to vaccinate children or recover COVID-19 patients for the virus, contradicting state and federal health officials who say the risks of the vaccine are much lower than the risks of the virus and its long-term potential. term medical problems.

Two doctors from Anchorage also spoke: Illona Farr, a family medicine practitioner who recommends ivermectin to her patients and whose sister is Senator Lora Reinbold, a vocal mask and vaccine critic; and Hillside Family Medicine co-founder John Nolte.

A special guest was unveiled ahead of the summit’s start: Chinese virologist Dr Li-Meng Yan, who fled to the United States last year and is widely criticized for her claim that a government lab in China manufactured the virus that can lead to COVID-19.

Bronson told the rally that Yan demanded security in the room on Saturday “because the Chinese government is after her.”

An obscure group called the Alaska Covid Alliance – its members want to remain anonymous, Chambers said last week – hosted the Anchorage summit.

On Monday, the group’s website included advice on alternative treatments for COVID-19, which doctors to consult, and a list of the “3 Ds of authority” – deception, division and destruction of government – including the question: “Is there any evidence that this Covid Crisis is being used to destroy our common way of life and usher in a ‘new normal’?” “

Officials from the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services said last week they had no plans to attend Saturday’s summit.

“We will not be presenting at this conference. We were not invited to present at this conference, ”Chief Medical Officer Dr Anne Zink said in a briefing on Thursday. “And we are constantly ensuring that Alaskans have access to all information about COVID-19 regarding treatment options. “

Public health officials continue to say that vaccination is the best way to prevent serious illness or death from the virus, and monoclonal antibodies are the only proven treatment for those infected, especially when given the most. early as possible.

They also say Saturday’s event lacked the control that typical medical conferences require of attendees, including disclosure of each speaker’s financial interests.

According to Dr. Tom Hennessy, an epidemiologist at the UAA College of Health, typical conferences also require attendees to clearly state when a treatment is “off-label” use not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. They must also provide accurate and science-based information.

These are part of the continuing education accreditation standards for healthcare providers, ”Hennessy wrote in an email. “Without such disclosures, presentations could become sales pitches or business ventures under the guise of medical education.”

– Journalist Annie Berman contributed to this story.

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