We Really Need to Talk About That Dolores Cahill COVID-19 Video

Recently, a video interview with Dolores Cahill and Computing Forever's Dave Cullen has been making the rounds and calling into question many of the basic facts around SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, social distancing, and public health policy [1].

I think it would benefit people to know who Dolores Cahill is. Her claim to expertise is a PhD and a professorship at University College Dublin, School of Medicine [2], which on its face initially seems relevant to the discussion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. What is often left out in discussing her background is that she also happens to be chairwoman for the Irish Freedom Party [3] a right-wing Euroskeptic party [4] with a history of amplifying or outright endorsing a range of conspiracy theories including the white nationalist "grand replacement" conspiracy theory [5, 6]. Now, while this latter fact alone personally gives me great pause when it comes to her ability to reliably interpret facts, I still think it is best to take her ideas on their own merits and see what she is saying.

Unfortunately, despite that fact that her academic training should lead her to be more knowledgeable about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, she seems to get almost every single factual statement about it wrong in this video. I personally feel worse off for having watched her video. Here are the highlights so you do not have to watch this yourself or so you can respond effectively to those that have.

Claim by Claim

About the first 10 minutes or so of the video I watched is introduction. The claims about SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 start at about 10 or 11 minutes into the video.

About 11 min “I had this virus in January.” This is highly doubtful as studies of the virus seem to indicate an introduction of SARS-CoV-2 closer to February in Ireland [7].

About 11 min “your immune system clears it after 10 days and then you are immune for life” Duration of immunity is currently unknown, but potentially called into question from several antibody studies [8, 9, 10].

About 11 min “so then you’re not a case” (after infection) On its face, it appears here that she does not understand basic case definition. While a fully-recovered person would no longer be an active case, they would still be a case, albeit a case with a known outcome. If I read this charitably, she may have been trying to communicate the difference between total infected and currently infected, but it likely communicates an inaccurate understanding to a lay audience.

About 12 min “under 50… will have no issue” This is completely false [11]. Many under 50, including children, have had severe health concerns or died due to COVID-19 [12, 13, 14].

About 12 min “there is no need for the lockdown” This kind of public health pronouncement strikes me as dangerously naïve. It strikes me as something that plays into wishful thinking and is likely to lead to a denial of reality or motivated reasoning where we start lying about what is happening in order to fit our wishes [15].

About 16 min shows chart from April claiming March peak. Dated and known to be wrong [16, 17].

About 17 min “COVID-19 had its peak on the 22nd of March” Reality called [18]: that is not even remotely true [19]!

About 17 min “The population in America cleared the virus, most of them, you know within 10 days and the virus is gone.” The month of May profoundly disagrees with her [20] as does the best infection and mortality estimates [10, 21, 22, 23, 24].

About 17 min “There is absolutely no need for lockdown” (in the US). This ignorance will get people killed [25] and probably has already [26].

About 17 min “We have never in the hundreds of years of infectious diseases quarantined healthy people.” Wrong. Social distancing of various kinds has been done since at least the Plague of Athens 2,500 years ago through to 532 through to the 14th Century through to the last great pandemic 100 years ago when it was practiced in almost every major city in the US. Oh yeah, in China, Italy, UK, etc. this year. The literal definition of “quarantine” (as opposed to isolation) is “a restriction on the movement of people and goods which is intended to prevent the spread of disease or pests. It is often used in connection to disease and illness, preventing the movement of those who may have been exposed to a communicable disease, but do not have a confirmed medical diagnosis. It is distinct from medical isolation, in which those confirmed to be infected with a communicable disease are isolated from the healthy population [27].” She seems somewhat clueless here [28, 29, 30].

About 24 min in the video: "SARS virus circulated in 2003 and essentially every 3 or 4 years since so that people are immune. So that everybody practically in the world is immune." Wrong. Wrong. And Wrong. No cases of SARS were ever confirmed after June 2004 and it seems that SARS (SARS-CoV-1) died out for good after a successful set of public health measures were implemented [31]. Only about 8,000 cases of SARS were ever confirmed, so she is exaggerating the situation by about 100,000,000% [32]! If she is bereft of the most basic understanding of the virus under consideration (SARS-CoV-2), how can she have anything of believable value to add to the topic?

About 25 min “no one would have died at all” if old people had taken vitamin C and D. This is bordering on the absurd. While there was some literature that suggested a possible association between vitamin D and illness severity [33], there was nothing to indicate that it was even curative, let alone a wonder drug. While the vitamin D itself probably does not pose a great risk, this misinformation will likely lead people to take unnecessary risks that could get them killed [34].

About 27 min “They would have no symptoms and there would be no deaths” if people took 1 or 2 tablets of hydroxychloroquine. This has been repeatedly debunked in actual practice [35, 36, 37], yet she keeps spouting this misinformation.

About 36 min “I think there is no need for any drugs to be developed.” I guess if she genuinely believes what she is saying, then drug development seems unnecessary. The problem, of course, is that basically every point she made above is wildly inaccurate.

About 36 min “There’s no need for a vaccine.” This is exactly the wrong thinking on SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19. Basically, since all of the available pharmacological weapons in the armamentarium are only weakly effective and the containment horse has long since left the barn, the only way out of this without many millions of dead will likely be with a safe and effective vaccine [38, 39, 40].

About 37 min “This SARS virus has been around for 17 years” Again, she is profoundly mistaken about the basic facts here as SARS-CoV-1 died out not long after it emerged [31, 32]. Whether she is mixing up SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, conflating all coronaviruses, being disingenuous, or simply has a highly unusual and completely unsupported theory I cannot say. Remember, SARS killed around 10% of identified cases [41]. Even if 90% of infections went unidentified (something very unlikely given the clinical picture), we would have probably remembered 70,000,000 people dying.

About 38 min “There is no need for social distancing. There are only 3 organisms that are transmitted in that way and it’s TB and Smallpox and Ebola.” Leaving aside the nitpick that viruses are not organisms, I am pretty sure that there are more things in the world that fit the bill than just these 3. For instance, CDC is specifically empowered to invoke federal isolation and quarantine for at least 9 communicable diseases [42].

About 38 min “What a mask does is entirely the wrong thing… it decreases your immune system.” I do not think that is how that works [43].

About 39 min “young people do not give it to adults, adults give it to young people.” I do not believe this for a minute, though I am sorry I could not find a citation to support the claim that SARS-CoV-2 does not check IDs before invading cells.

About 50 min “I think the real issue is that people can take these vitamins and zinc and boost their immune system so there won’t be any more deaths.” I wish that this were so. I do. Again, I am shocked that I have to say this out loud, but taking adult multivitamins will not stop this pandemic.

She goes on and on (really), but I hope you have gotten the idea. Basically, my read of the video interview of Dolores Cahill with Computing Forever's Dave Cullen is that it is utterly terrible. Almost every factual sentence about SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 is completely wrong, an extreme exaggeration, or likely to promote poor health practices. Do not share it. Do not believe it. If your friends share it, just drop a link to this in the comments and leave the discussion.


[1] I am not going to link to it directly because backlinks can serve as a kind of ‘vote’ for a content’s reliability with search engines. Also, it keeps getting taken down an reuploaded in various formats. Unfortunately, if you are reading this you probably have seen it or seen it referenced. It has certainly been uploaded to the major video sites in various forms in recent weeks. On a related note, all of the video times could be off by a minute or two in either direction depending on the version and upload location, but should tell you roughly where to find the quote in question.

[2] https://people.ucd.ie/dolores.cahill

[3] https://www.irishfreedom.ie/member/dolores-cahill/

[4] https://www.irishfreedom.ie/principles/

[5] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/how-the-far-right-is-exploiting-immigration-concerns-in-oughterard-1.4026612

[6] https://www.businesspost.ie/politics/irelands-alt-right-446192

[7] https://nextstrain.org/ncov/europe

[8] https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.30.20047365v2

[9] https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.15.20066407v1.full.pdf

[10] https://www.integralmetamodern.com/post/forget-normal-and-prepare-for-the-most-challenging-years-in-generations-covid-19-pandemic

[11] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0822-7

[12] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/13/health/coronavirus-children-kawasaki-pmis.html

[13] https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/14/health/pediatric-coronavirus-syndrome-multisystem-health/index.html

[14] https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/multisystem-inflammatory-syndrome-in-children-and-adolescents-with-covid-19

[15] https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-05-18/georgia-coronavirus-numbers-reopening-manipulated-data-brian-kemp

[16] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

[17] https://coronavirus.1point3acres.com/en

[18] https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

[19] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/coronavirus-maps.html

[20] https://abcnews.go.com/US/coronavirus-live-updates-york-tourist-arrested-hawaii-posting/story?id=70718169

[21] https://twitter.com/trvrb/status/1253398329766973441

[22] https://covid19-projections.com/

[23] https://www.vox.com/2020/5/16/21259492/covid-antibodies-spain-serology-study-coronavirus-immunity

[24] https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00455

[25] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/18/lockdown-protests-spread-coronavirus-cellphone-data

[26] https://metro.co.uk/2020/04/21/anti-lockdown-protester-branded-covid-19-political-ploy-killed-coronavirus-12588467/

[27] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarantine

[28] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quarantine

[29] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html

[30] https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/historyquarantine.html

[31] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/immunology-and-microbiology/sars-coronavirus

[32] https://www.who.int/ith/diseases/sars/en/

[33] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41430-020-0661-0

[34] https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-vitamin-d-prevent-covid-19/

[35] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2765499

[36] https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1432/

[37] https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2012410

[38] https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/

[39] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/10/health/coronavirus-plague-pandemic-history.html

[40] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/way-pandemic-world-coming-together-develop-vaccine/

[41] https://www.who.int/csr/sars/archive/2003_05_07a/en/

[42] https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/aboutlawsregulationsquarantineisolation.html

[43] https://www.forbes.com/sites/victoriaforster/2020/05/12/wearing-a-mask-to-reduce-the-spread-of-coronavirus-will-not-give-you-carbon-dioxide-poisoning/#7d9d41617f56

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© 2020 by M. Ellis Jaruzel, PsyD