Since Saturday, the president has repeatedly criticized “unscientific blockades” – falsely portraying public health experts as advocating severe restrictions – and argued against coronavirus-related limits in American society by repeating his months-old mantra, “The cure. it can̵
And since his encounter with the virus, Trump has made claims about his alleged “immunity” rate of standard campaign speech. “I’m immune and I can’t give it to you,” he bragged on Wednesday “- although scientists don’t fully understand how strong immunity can be or how long it could last.
“Remember, when you take it, you get better and immune,” he said in an interview with Fox News last week, despite the lack of conclusive research and the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have died after contracting it.
Although he largely avoided using the phrase “herd immunity” to describe the policies he promoted, the president’s views reflect those of a small subset of scientists with a powerful ally in the White House, Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist Without precedents. in infectious diseases that supplanted Fauci and other senior federal public health officials as one of Trump’s leading medical advisors.
Scientists argue that the United States should seek to achieve “herd immunity” to COVID-19 by allowing the virus to naturally spread through the population, while keeping only “vulnerable” groups – such as the elderly – protected. Eventually, they say, enough people will fall ill and recover – and potentially become immune to reinfection, at least for some time – that the spread rate will decline.
But a broad consensus of leading public health experts categorically rejects this idea, arguing that it would lead to many millions of deaths and would have an incalculable toll on an American population filled with underlying medical conditions, such as obesity, that make them more likely to suffer. of severe symptoms. and die.
These leading experts, however, broadly agree that extreme measures of social distancing can have adverse effects on society – physically, mentally and financially – and should be avoided whenever possible. They say they too are against total “blocking”, but that measures like wearing masks and limiting meeting sizes can lower the rate of infection.
“This idea that we have the power to protect the vulnerable is total nonsense, because history has shown that this is not the case,” Fauci said in a Thursday. interview with George Stephanopoulos, Chief Anchor of ABC News, on “Good Morning America”. “And if you talk to someone who has experience in epidemiology and infectious diseases, they will tell you that it is risky and you will end up with many more infections than vulnerable people, which will lead to hospitalizations and deaths.
“So I think we just have to look that square in the eye and say it doesn’t make sense,” Fauci said.
However, the Trump administration has not treated it as nonsense.
In addition to pushing for an end to coronavirus-related restrictions and insisting that the country “fully open up,” Trump has also repeatedly stressed – often with misleading statistics – that the virus only affects the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions. His focus on those groups jokes with advocates of “herd immunity” who minimize the risk to others.
In fact, thousands of young Americans have died and millions have fallen ill.
The White House called a conference call for reporters on Monday in part to draw attention to the Great Barrington Declaration, an online petition that supports the achievement of the natural immunity of the flock also using a “targeted protection” to safeguard the most vulnerable. The authors of the open letter boasted thousands of signatories, but Sky News found that among them were “homeopaths, therapists and false names” such as “Dr. Johnny Bananas” and “Dr. Person Fakename”.
The Infectious Disease Society of America on Wednesday called the petition’s ideas “inappropriate, irresponsible and misinformed”. In an open letter published Thursday in the leading medical journal The Lancet, an international group of leading medical specialists approved a counter petition called the John Snow Memorandum, which clearly opposes the natural pursuit of “herd immunity”.
“Uncontrolled transmission in young people risks significant morbidity and mortality in the entire population,” the authors wrote in the memorandum, which received support from leading epidemiologists. “In addition to the human cost, this would impact the workforce as a whole and overwhelm the ability of health systems to provide acute and routine care.”
No government epidemiologist or infectious disease expert was on the call from the White House, and when pressed, a senior administration official said the White House was not actually formally “endorsing” the petition.
“We are not approving a plan,” the official told reporters, who requested anonymity. “The plan supports what has been the president’s policy for months.”
Fauci told ABC News Thursday that the Great Barrington Declaration falsely described leading public health experts as advocating “blockades.”
“This statement contains a couple of things that I think are making fun of people, because it says things that are like apple pie and motherhood,” she said. “A, we don’t want to close the country. I always say that. B, we certainly want to protect the most vulnerable.”
In a statement provided by the White House, Atlas said that “we emphatically deny that the White House, the president, the administration or anyone advising the president has pursued or supported any strategy to gain herd immunity by letting infection be coronavirus spreads across the community. ” He said the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration “emphasized the targeted protection of the vulnerable and the safe end of school and society closures.”
“Those specific policies are aligned with the president, who has repeatedly stated and pursued a strategy focused on saving lives as follows: aggressively protecting the vulnerable, preventing hospital overcrowding, and opening schools and societies safely,” he said. Atlas.
But John Brownstein, an epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said the Great Barrington Declaration supported, in effect, the idea of letting the virus tear apart the community, as long as the vulnerable were protected. “It’s the same thing,” said Brownstein, an ABC News contributor. “I don’t see the distinction.”
Brownstein said the concept of “focused protection” was “theoretically exciting to think about” but “was not feasible in our population” due to the high level of underlying medical conditions in the population – as well as the interconnectedness of society.
“We know that every single person is a bridge to a high-risk person,” he said. “It is simply not practical to think that you can put high-risk people apart from the population.”
The president has been pushing for months for an end to coronavirus restrictions – including those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal health officials – by violating precautions like wearing masks and ignoring state and local regulations that prohibit large gatherings.
A close ally, Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis, has also embraced researchers by pushing the ideas behind natural “herd immunity.”
In late September, DeSantis, a Republican, hosted a panel discussion with two of those who would later meet Azar, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard Medical School.
The next day, DeSantis, a Republican, lifted all coronavirus-related restrictions in the state.