From Wall Street to Main Street, much hope in the COVID-19 crisis has been placed on “herd immunity,” the idea that a sufficient number of people will eventually develop antibodies to stop virus spread and curtail the pandemic. That thinking is behind President Donald Trump’s insisting, “The virus will disappear. It will disappear.”
The Swedish government chose to pursue herd immunity during the spring when COVID-19 overwhelmed many European nations, favoring voluntary control measures over strict lockdown procedures. This week, 21 Swedish infectious diseases experts denounced the policy, writing, “In Sweden, the strategy has led to death, grief, and suffering, and on top of that there are no indications that the Swedish economy has fared better than in many other countries. At the moment, we have set an example for the rest of the world on how not to deal with a deadly infectious disease.”
Modeling of SARS-CoV-2 indicates that an infection rate of 65% to 70% is needed to protect the rest of our freewheeling human herd. Thus, two-thirds of the U.S. population must become resistant to the virus before our epidemic shifts from collective catastrophe to isolated incidents. But allowing infection of about 200 million Americans translates to more than 1 million deaths, a morally reprehensible toll. The 10% antibody-positive rate among Swedes, the 5% seen in survivors of Spain’s epidemic, and even the 45% found among London health care workers involved in COVID-19 patient care come nowhere near herd immunity levels.
To boost public confidence, it is essential that vaccines are approved only after both efficacy and safety are rigorously proved. Any rushed political interventions and election year politics that compromise safety assessments could render mass immunization impossible by further fostering public distrust.
As prominent economists have put it, “Absolute economic recovery rests on the eradication of COVID-19. The reality is that the timeline, efficacy, cost, and distribution of a vaccine all introduce factors that we do not believe are appropriately reflected in the markets and public sentiment.”
This killer coronavirus will not simply “disappear” as long as human behavior allows it to spread within the herd. A Wall Street miracle, where powerful, lasting immunity emerges en masse and allows the world economy to return to its 2019 ways, is delusional. Until a vaccine or multiple vaccines are developed and used on a global scale to confer herd immunity, human beings must exercise free will to protect themselves and the rest of the human herd by using masks, social distancing, and good old-fashioned common sense.
Ã¢ÂÂ FORTUNE (@FortuneMagazine) July 29, 2020
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) July 28, 2020
— Bryce Oates (@OatesBryce) July 23, 2020
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) July 29, 2020
There is one factor that explains Trump’s decline: independents. Five polls in both sets breaks down support for Trump and Biden among Democrats, Republicans and independents. Democrats and Republicans have barely changed over this period, although Trump does get between two and eight fewer points of support among Republicans today than he did before the pandemic. The real change is among independents. Before the pandemic, they either backed Trump or backed Biden by a narrow margin. Today, Biden leads Trump among independents by between nine and 17 points. This massive shift explains why Trump has gone from trailing Biden by five points on March 4, the day after Biden’s Super Tuesday romp, to nine points today.
Trump believes that a “last-minute surge” will save him.
Trump will try anything to avoid defeat, and one assumes that “steps are being taken”.
Ã¢ÂÂ Jennifer Cohn Ã¢ÂÂÃ°ÂÂÂ» (@jennycohn1) July 29, 2020
Ã¢ÂÂ Ellen L Ã°ÂÂÂ· Weintraub (@EllenLWeintraub) July 28, 2020
Ã¢ÂÂ NDRC (@DemRedistrict) July 28, 2020
Ã¢ÂÂ Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) July 28, 2020
— Slate (@Slate) July 29, 2020
Ã¢ÂÂ Adam Rifkin Ã°ÂÂÂ¼ (@ifindkarma) April 27, 2020
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) July 28, 2020
— Adam Rifkin Ã°ÂÂÂ¼ (@ifindkarma) July 9, 2020