The White House has been following a contestable strategy related to controlling the coronavirus called the Great Barrington Declaration. In this declaration created by Jay Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta, and Martin Kulldorff, who are all academics, they advocate for achieving herd immunity as the best way to control COVID-19. They advocate for letting those who are least susceptible to go about freely living their lives and achieve natural infection, while protecting those most vulnerable from infection at all costs. The declaration advocates that people can achieve immunity on their own through natural infection or potentially through a vaccine if one is available, but even without one, they could still achieve immunity and this would then lead to a greater segment of the population achieving herd immunity. This declaration has its own website and asks for people to sign it in support. Also, besides the three main writers of this strategy, other academics have listed their names in support of this agenda.
However, we have seen the great destruction caused by the virus while it was quietly infecting various populations without their knowing it. Instead it led to disastrous consequences where people flooded the hospitals, which were ill-equipped to handle the disease. Even after this first wave of the pandemic which presumably started in the winter in Wuhan, China and then by late winter or early spring reached Europe and parts of the United States, now still in its first wave in other parts of the United States, hospitals with more knowledge are still being overwhelmed. Into its second wave in Europe, their hospitals now have more cases this fall than they had in the spring. Clearly the virus running rampant in the population before did not lead to anywhere close the levels needed for herd immunity. It has been reported that fewer of 1 in 10 Americans have had past coronavirus exposure as of late September even with a patchwork of shutdown and re-openings across the country and lack of clear guidance from the federal government. If the belief of the White House continues with the herd immunity strategy in the Barrington declaration, certainly this can lead to more disastrous consequences for the nation, until a vaccine can hopefully be implemented in the population. However projections for even the most promising of vaccines put implementation in the general population not until April of 2021. The best strategy that people can continue using until then are mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing, avoidance of large outdoor gatherings, and much smaller indoor gatherings. These strategies combined with state regulations on openings and gatherings can have much more positive consequences than the extremely difficult to achieve herd immunity proposal.
Written by Usha Govindarajulu
November 11, 2020