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Dr. Fauci just tore apart a crazy coronavirus strategy the White House actually embraced

Published Oct 19th, 2020 5:25PM EDT
Herd immunity
Image: Kevin Dietsch - Pool via CNP/MEGA

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  • White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has pushed back strongly against the herd immunity strategy that some White House officials have flirted with as a means of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Basically, herd immunity calls for letting the coronavirus rip through a population and exposing young, healthy people to it so that everyone can learn to live with the virus.
  • Fauci called this strategy “nonsense” and potentially dangerous as it would lead to a significant increase in death.

Stronger, pointed language is starting to be the norm from White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, as is stepped-up criticism of the doctor from President Trump — who’s taken to openly berating the venerable director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. In fact, President Trump’s unproductive haranguing of Dr. Fauci took a particularly weird turn on Monday, when the president tweeted that he wants Fauci to “make better decisions” and that, besides, the doctor also has a “bad arm!” in reference to the ceremonial opening pitch of the 2020 baseball season that Fauci threw earlier this year. Moreover, Trump derided Fauci as a “disaster” in a call with campaign officials that he allowed reporters to listen in on.

Meantime, Fauci is arguably dropping the diplomatic pretense a bit more than usual these days, such as in his strident criticism of the so-called herd immunity strategy for fighting COVID-19 that the White House keeps flirting with. It’s an idea that Fauci says is “nonsense,” “dangerous,” and would lead to a significant number of deaths.

Fauci made the comments during a recent interview with Yahoo News, which included a discussion of the herd immunity strategy — the one that calls for just letting COVID-19 run loose, infect who it’s going to infect, and everyone supposedly just learns how to live with the virus accordingly.

“I’ll tell you exactly how I feel about that,” Fauci said. “If you let infections rip, as it were, and say, ‘Let everybody get infected that’s going to be able to get infected and then we’ll have herd immunity.’ Quite frankly that is nonsense, and anybody who knows anything about epidemiology will tell you that that is nonsense and very dangerous.”

The general consensus in the scientific community is that something on the order of 60% to 80% of a population needs to have either been vaccinated or have antibodies to achieve herd immunity against a virus. Unfortunately, though, top health experts in the US say the vast majority of the country still has not been exposed to COVID-19 and remains vulnerable to the deadly virus.

Nevertheless, according to the New York Times, radiologist Scott Atlas — a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force — has reportedly ruffled feathers by espousing a theory tantamount to herd immunity. It was for that reason that infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that Atlas’ thinking along these lines “is the most amazing combination of pixie dust and pseudoscience I’ve ever seen.”

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has previously said that herd immunity “is not the strategy of the US government” in terms of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. However, per CNBC, a White House official on Monday could be heard briefing reporters during a call that included referencing the so-called “Great Barrington Declaration.” That’s a controversial manifesto of sorts from a group of scientists, apparently embraced by some in the White House, which calls for letting COVID-19 spread among young people while protecting the vulnerable from it, which would supposedly provide herd immunity through actual infections instead of a vaccine.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.