Wednesday, December 16, 2020


This is monstrous:
A top Trump appointee repeatedly urged top health officials to adopt a "herd immunity" approach to Covid-19 and allow millions of Americans to be infected by the virus, according to internal emails obtained by a House watchdog and shared with POLITICO.

“There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD," then-science adviser Paul Alexander wrote on July 4 to his boss, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo, and six other senior officials.

"Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little we use them to develop herd…we want them infected..." Alexander added.

"[I]t may be that it will be best if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected" in order to get "natural immunity...natural exposure," Alexander wrote on July 24 to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Caputo and eight other senior officials. Caputo subsequently asked Alexander to research the idea....
But I don't agree with Atrios:
It's never been polite to say so, but the "herd immunity" concept mostly wasn't being pushed due to a different reading of the "science" (however dumb), or even a different weighting of various economic costs and benefits (also however dumb), but because some people got very excited at the prospect of A Great Culling, quite convinced that a devasting pandemic was just the little kick in the pants our gene pool needed.
We know that early on there was right-wing indifference to the victims of the pandemic because they mostly seemed to be non-whites concentrated in Democratic parts of the country. (In the fall, Vanity Fair reported on a March meeting at FEMA after which, in the view of one attendee, "it seemed 'very clear' [Jared] Kushner was less interested in finding a solution because, at the time, the virus was primarily ravaging cities in blue states.") But the pandemic has recently been at its worst in the Dakotas and other blood-red areas of America, and they continue to be indifferent to the suffering.

I don't believe they're cheering on a culling of people they see as unfit. I think they've been telling themselves lies in order to justify doing what they want to do regarding the virus.

In March, the libertarian Hoover Institution scholar (and non-scientist) Richard Epstein proclaimed that the coronavirus would kill only 500 people in America; shortly after that, he told us he'd made a mistake -- the real number was 5,000. (We crossed the 300,000 mark this week.) Epstein's pronouncements justified a lot of right-wing inaction.

More recently, the Trump administration embraced the Great Barrington Declaration, an anti-lockdown manifesto whose signers included doctors who claim that coronavirus herd immunity can be achieved at an infection rate of 10% to 20%. Reputable scientists reject this notion, telling us that herd immunity in the absence of a vaccine can't be achieved without an infection rate of 60% to 70%, which would result in a death rate in the seven figures. But if you tell yourself that herd immunity is just around the corner, then you're not a bad person for pursuing it, right?

And Paul Alexander, in the messages quoted above, expresses an opinion that defies common sense: that young, healthy people can become infected to the virus harmlessly. This is premised on the notion that all young people are thin, fit, and healthy and socialize only with other young, fit, healthy young people, and that elderly people and people who have been in poor health can be sequestered completely away from the young and the fit. The absurdity of this can be seen by thinking about a college campus. Are there no older or less-than-perfectly-healthy professors? Or dining hall workers? Or security staff? Or workers and patrons in off-campus bars? Or people on the streets and in the stores near campus? And don't many people with preexisting conditions -- maybe even just asthma -- want to work and be able to walk the streets? Don't many more simply need to work? Has the Trump administration supported anything that would allow them to step away from their work indefinitely and be guaranteed it when the pandemic is under control?

But if you tell yourself these fairy tales, you can also tell yourself that you're not a sociopath for wanting to treat the pandemic as trivial. And maybe you aren't a sociopath. Maybe you're just engaging in magical thinking so you don't have to seriously consider the horrific consequences of what you've done.

No comments: