According to this idea, vulnerable groups would be targeted for “targeted protection”, for example, by introducing additional precautions such as frequent Covid-19 testing to avoid infections of older people living in nursing homes. The rest of the population “should be immediately allowed to return to normal life,” the statement said.
This approach goes strongly against the overwhelming consensus of public health experts, including Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The new Covid-19 approach would undoubtedly add massively to the suffering in the United States in a very short period of time.
The idea that we should not try to control infections other than those of vulnerable groups is based on a complete misunderstanding of the real choices facing the United States – or any country for that matter. The main mistake is to believe that the only alternative to economic shutdown is to let the virus spread widely among the population. Instead, a basic set of public health measures is enough, as many other countries have shown, to control the spread of the virus. Appropriate measures include widespread testing, contact tracing, isolating those infected, wearing face masks, physical distancing, and banning super-propagator events (such as Trump rallies). South Korea has exemplified this political approach, as have many of its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region.
Unfortunately, this very basic information does not appear to have reached or been understood by the White House, even though experts already knew in April that the Asia-Pacific region was suppressing the pandemic thanks to these public health measures, and without it is necessary to carry out complete interlocks. (or with only brief lockdowns to give time to step up public health measures). By suppressing the virus, these countries have limited the economic fallout.
Indeed, according to the new IMF report, China, which broke the pandemic thanks to public health control, will achieve positive GDP growth of 1.9% this year, against an expected drop in US GDP of 4. , 3%. The Trump team is so obsessed with its anti-Chinese propaganda that it has categorically refused to learn of China’s success in reducing transmission of the virus allowing an economic rebound. Trump and his team have also declined to learn of similar successes in Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, all of which have very low transmission of the virus.
The collective immunity approach is a nightmare for four reasons:
First, according to a study published in The Lancet in late September, less than 10% of Americans have so far been infected with the novel coronavirus. About 60% of Americans would likely be infected as part of a herd immunity strategy. This represents around 200 million more cases of Covid-19 in the United States and countless deaths. This would obviously be gratuitous madness, as the pandemic can be brought under control by inexpensive and proven public health means.
Second, there would be absolutely no reliable way to protect vulnerable populations with “targeted protection”. Many older people do not live in nursing or retirement homes where protective measures can be systematically implemented. And as the CDC warned, there are a large number of vulnerable Americans who are not among the elderly, but who suffer from such prevalent medical conditions as obesity, cancer, kidney disease, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and others. And in addition to people with previous health issues, the CDC also points out other groups that need additional precautions: pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with disabilities, people with developmental and behavioral disabilities, and more.
For a White House team that can’t even properly protect its guests at a White House event, the idea that they could suddenly oversee the implementation of “targeted protection” to vulnerable people spread out across the country in the midst of an uncontrolled pandemic is a fantasy.
Third, supporters of collective immunity seem to ignore the fact that in addition to the acute and short-term effects of Covid-19, there are also long-term consequences of the disease for many, ranging from ‘brain fog’ of long-term Covid-19 – lasting damage to many organ systems. Evidence continues to mount that Covid-19 is a terribly dangerous disease for many who survive the infection and in ways that scientists are still coming to understand.
Fourth, it is particularly ill-chosen to let the pandemic run wild when the White House touts a vaccine as being just around the corner. If a reliable and safe vaccine will soon be available to protect citizens, surely there are overwhelming reasons not to get infected now, but rather to stay safe until the vaccine arrives.
Trump’s utter ignorance has already resulted in unprecedented suffering, and the latest bad idea would severely multiply the damage. If implemented, a collective immunity strategy could well be the most reckless move by the White House to date.