The Extra Podcast: Dr. Jon McCullers on the hard choices we might have to make during a pandemic

By , Daily Memphian Updated: March 27, 2020 1:01 PM CT | Published: March 26, 2020 5:12 PM CT
Eric Barnes
Daily Memphian

Eric Barnes

Eric Barnes is CEO of The Daily Memphian, host of Behind the Headlines on WKNO-TV, host of The Sidebar on WYXR 91.7, and the author of four novels.

If the notion of a dystopian society picking who should live and who should die during a viral pandemic upsets you, you really shouldn’t listen to this week’s edition of The Extra Podcast.

Or maybe just skip forward to minute 13.

Dr. Jon McCullers, an expert on infectious diseases at UTHSC as well as pediatrician in chief at Le Bonheur, joins me on the podcast to talk about some of the big picture challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Produced by Natalie Van Gundy

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Although we did touch on some current news — including the fact that 5 to 6 percent of people who’ve been tested so far in the Memphis area have been positive, a number that has been frustratingly difficult to get from local officials and the state, as well as his concern that area hospitals will soon face very difficult conditions — for the most part I wanted to stay away from what’s happening today. Partly because we’re covering that on a nearly moment-to-moment basis on the site. And because we had a deep discussion about local efforts to fight coronavirus on Behind the Headlines this week.

<strong>Jon McCullers</strong>

Jon McCullers

What I really wanted to talk to Dr. McCullers about are the complicated, ethically difficult strategies other countries are using or contemplating as they try to stem the damage from COVID-19. Because these are strategies that could, of course, eventually be adopted by the U.S. — and Memphis specifically — as the pandemic continues.

Besides the difficult discussion about choices (referenced above) we also discussed the difficulties — maybe even the impossibility — of keeping residents sheltered in their homes for as long as might be ideal from a purely scientific point of view.

It’s one of the reasons I wanted to have Dr. McCullers on the show: When he came on Behind the Headlines last week, he was able to capture so much of the complexity, pragmatism and trade-offs a society has to consider in a bad situation such as we now face.

He was also nice enough to bear with me as I asked for advice on the most effective way to get through the grocery store. His answer was, I have to say, extremely calming for me. Hopefully for you as well.

Take a listen.

One note: I referenced a blog, The Incidental Economist, during the show. The very difficult mathematical equation a couple of doctors tackled, as I mentioned in the show, is here. (However, if you’re over 80, you might want to just go reread Geoff’s great column from this week.)


Related stories:

When to reopen America?

Testing numbers statewide released; local numbers still unknown

Herrington: Back to business by Easter? Memphis leaders likely to follow science, not rhetoric


Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists continue to work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do.


coronavirus The Extra Podcast Le Bonheur UTHSC Dr Jon McCullers


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