Herd Immunity: Covid Deaths Devouring the South Are No Accident - 2021-09-22

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F340.png Herd Immunity: Covid Deaths Devouring the South Are No Accident September 22, 2021, Gregg Gonsalves, The Nation

At the end of August, I wrote about the deficiencies in President Joe Biden's initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the beginning of September, the president announced a series of new initiatives that will tackle many, though not all, of these shortcomings. I am not positing a cause and effect here: I don't think the president's inner circle is reading my columns in The Nation to decide what to do. However, what is driving the Biden administration's moves is reasonable scientific advice, and my comments here were largely framed within the existing scientific consensus of what we should be doing now. We can argue the specifics—and certainly still criticize—but by and large, "science is back" in 2021 (depending where you look, but more on that later).

It's hard to remember—perhaps because I am trying so hard to forget—the sheer lunacy of Trump's science last year: second-rate economist Peter Navarro's campaign to put hydroxychloroquine in the drinking water (with help from my own institution's Harvey Risch); the president's ravings about bleach and ultraviolet light; and then there was Scott Atlas, the Rasputin of 2020. Though an actual physician, his training was in neuroradiology, not infectious diseases; until 2012, Atlas was a professor in his field of expertise at Stanford. After 2012, his relationship with the university shifted, and he became a fellow at the Hoover Institution, the conservative think tank loosely affiliated with the university, where he was a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act and pushed for Medicaid to become a bridge to private insurance.

But Scott Atlas's claim to, well, infamy, was his embrace of the concept of herd immunity: the idea that Covid-19 was of negligible clinical significance for anyone but the elderly, and that—apart from sequestering the elderly from the rest of the population—public health restrictions were unnecessary. Rather than heed public health advice, Atlas claimed as many people needed to get infected as possible as quickly as possible to develop herd immunity and put the pandemic behind us. This was met with vociferous pushback from the medical and public health community, since "letting 'er rip"—letting the virus spread uncontrolled and thus allowing millions to get infected—also risked millions of deaths. Besides, actually sequestering the elderly and those with underlying conditions was nearly impossible given the sheer number of individuals in these categories. Atlas resigned his White House post on December 1, 2020.

Wikipedia cite:
{{cite news | first = Gregg | last = Gonsalves | title = Herd Immunity: Covid Deaths Devouring the South Are No Accident | url = https://www.thenation.com/article/society/atlas-covid-herd-immunity/ | work = The Nation | date = September 22, 2021 | accessdate = November 5, 2021 }}