Oct. 21 (UPI) — U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams joined other top health experts Wednesday in opposing a dangerous “herd immunity” strategy, as the United States again added another 60,000 COVID-19 cases.
According to updated data from Johns Hopkins University, there were 60,300 new cases nationwide on Tuesday — the third time in the past week that the level has topped 60,000.
Deaths in the United States also increased on Tuesday, the data showed, to more than 900. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 8.28 million cases and about 221,100 deaths nationwide.
Wednesday, Adams joined Dr. Antony Fauci and other top health officials in opposing a herd immunity strategy, which is purportedly being considered by the Trump administration. Adams said pursuing such a strategy, which effectively allows the coronavirus to spread unchecked, would result in an unacceptable death toll.
Adams tweeted that there’s no “example of a large-scale successful intentional infection-based herd immunity strategy” and warned that the course would “lead to many complications/deaths.”
The strategy reasons that letting the virus spread would infect large populations, who would then develop a natural immunity to COVID-19 and thereby reduce the number of people who can be infected afterward. Eventually, the theory goes, the virus would run into a dead end.
“Large numbers of people would need to be infected to achieve herd immunity without a vaccine,” Adams wrote, warning that such a path could “overwhelm” healthcare systems.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, rejected the idea of herd immunity last week, calling it “ridiculous” and “total nonsense.”
Most scientists say there would be no feasible way to isolate and protect vulnerable Americans who face a greater risk of death from COVID-19 in such a scenario.
Researchers at the University of Washington say a herd immunity strategy would likely lead to tens of thousands of additional deaths by the start of 2021.
Child cases have increased by almost 15% — 84,000 cases — in the first two weeks of October, according to an update from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association.
Since the start of the crisis, about 740,000 children have tested positive in the United States — almost 11% of total cases, it said. The overall infection rate is 986 per 100,000 children.
Though severe illness and deaths still appear to be rare among children, the groups urged authorities to “provide detailed reports on COVID-19 cases, testing, hospitalizations and mortality by age and race/ethnicity so that the effects of COVID-19 on children’s health can be documented and monitored.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday there have been about 300,000 deaths more than normal so far this year due to the pandemic.
In a typical year, the CDC said, there are about 1.9 million deaths from all causes between February and October. This year, COVID-19 has pushed that figure to near 2.2 million, an increase of 14.5%.
About 200,000 of the extra deaths may be attributed to
Public health experts are growing alarmed that the Trump administration is increasingly embracing scientists who argue against lockdowns and restrictions as a means to control the coronavirus pandemic.
Those scientists maintain that the costs of locking down society and closing schools and businesses outweighs their benefits in combatting the virus. In a document known as the Great Barrington Declaration, signed earlier this month, they embrace a concept known as “herd immunity,” in which a population builds up enough resistance to a pathogen that it runs out of victims to infect.
On a call with reporters on Monday, two senior White House officials cited the declaration, authored in part by an economist with close ties to Scott Atlas, the radiologist who has become one of Trump’s chief advisors on the coronavirus pandemic.
But to public health experts, allowing the virus to run its deadly and devastating course is an unacceptable option that would lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths beyond the 217,000 Americans who have already succumbed to the disease.
“If you just let things rip and let the infection go, no masks, crowd, it doesn’t make any difference, that quite frankly, George, is ridiculous,” Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump fields questions on coronavirus, conspiracy theories in combative town hall Chris Christie says he ‘was wrong’ not to wear face mask at White House Overnight Health Care: Georgia gets Trump approval for Medicaid work requirements, partial expansion | McConnell shoots down .8 trillion coronavirus deal MORE, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosSix takeaways from Trump and Biden’s dueling town halls Biden draws sharp contrast with Trump in low-key town hall Biden leaves door open to adding Supreme Court justices MORE on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday.
“You’ll wind up with many more infections of vulnerable people, which will lead to hospitalizations and deaths. So I think we’ve just got to look that square in the eye and say it’s nonsense,” Fauci added.
In a statement Thursday, groups like the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the American Public Health Association, the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health and the Public Health Institute condemned the declaration and the flaws in its arguments.
“Covid-19 carries a much higher risk of severe disease and death than other infections where herd immunity was attempted before a vaccine was available,” the groups said. “It is illogical to ignore public health and scientific evidence when so many lives are at stake.”
Some experts pointed to an underlying flaw of the declaration: An assumption that someone who has recovered from the coronavirus will become immune to reinfection in the future.
“We just don’t really understand coronavirus immunology well enough to know whether this is going to be a minor, moderate or major concern,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention at the University of Minnesota. “We have learned so much about Covid-19 over the course of