Anchorage Chief Medical Officer Dr. Savitt on Reproductive Number: ‘What’s That?’

Anchorage Chief Medical Officer Dr. Savitt on Reproductive Number: ‘What’s That?’

Delta continues its march and now accounts for almost all newly detected cases of COVID-19 in Alaska and within the Municipality of Anchorage.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) described Delta as more transmissible than the common cold and influenza, as well as the viruses that cause smallpox, MERS, SARS, and Ebola—and called it as contagious as chickenpox in an internal document, a copy of which was obtained by and reported on in The New York Times.

According to Yale epidemiologist F. Perry Wilson, MD, “In a completely unmitigated environment—where no one is vaccinated or wearing masks—it’s estimated that the average person infected with the original coronavirus strain will infect 2.5 other people,” Dr. Wilson said. “In the same environment, Delta would spread from one person to maybe 3.5 or 4 other people.”

In Anchorage, Dr. Michael Savitt, a board-certified pediatrician who the Anchorage Health Department wrote in a press release last week also has “extensive experience with infectious diseases and has a degree in psychology,” was apparently hired by embattled Health Department Director David Morgan. Dr. Savitt quickly replaced epidemiologist Janet Johnston who recently resigned from her role at the Health Department.

Bruce Chandler, the Anchorage Health Department’s longtime medical officer who specialized in infectious disease control and prevention, turned in a letter of resignation on Sunday. His resignation is effective on Aug. 15, and he is on scheduled leave until then, according to KTOO.

At yesterday’s Health Policy Meeting with Dr. Savitt and David Morgan in attendance, Anchorage Assembly Woman Austin Quinn-Davidson asked Dr. Savitt what the reproductive number of the virus was in Anchorage to which Dr. Savitt—the pediatrician who is alleged to have “extensive experience with infectious diseases” responded to Quinn-Davidson asking her what she meant by “reproductive number.”

Quinn-Davidson explained to pediatrician Dr. Savitt that the reproductive number is a “really important aspect of infectious disease. It shows how quickly the virus is growing in the community; it’s one of the top factors we used to determine the risk of COVID while I was mayor and while we had an epidemiologist on staff.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the basic reproduction number also called the basic reproduction ratio or rate or the basic reproductive rate, is an epidemiologic metric used to describe the contagiousness or transmissibility of infectious agents—such as a virus.

In response to Quinn-Davidson’s question, Dr. Savitt said that they didn’t have all of that information available and began shuffling through pages looking for the elusive reproductive number he was asked about, stating that they had worked off a “five percent figure” to which Quinn-Davidson quickly interjected, correcting Dr. Savitt by saying that the reproductive number shouldn’t be five percent, but rather somewhere around one.

Incredibly, the elusive reproductive number was found and provided to Dr. Savitt by David Morgan of all people. After a quick review of the document provided to Dr. Savitt—Savitt said that as of July 14, 2021, the number Quinn-Davidson asked about was 1.36 which Quinn-Davidson noted “was quite high.”

According to the most recent data available on the Alaska COVID-19 datahub, the statewide estimated reproductive number as of August 3 was 1.36, and in Anchorage, the estimated number is 1.28.

The highlighted exchange is all but certain to raise more questions about Dr. Savitt’s ability to advise the Municipality as it sees an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.