Donald Trump's Final Pitch to Americans: Drop Dead

With 20 days to go until the presidential election, ’s prospects are not looking great. As of last week, was leading the president by an average of 9.7 points nationally and five to seven points in major battleground states. Biden has a much higher favorability rate than Hillary Clinton did this late in the race. The president is down in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the states to which he owes his 2016 win. He’s hemorrhaging support from women (which might have something to do with the fact that one of his campaign advisers called one of the most prominent women in America a “power-hungry, smug bitch”). Seniors, who were essential to his political fortune four years ago, have been souring on him. And on arguably the biggest issue of the day—COVID-19—two thirds of Americans think Trump has done a terrible job.

Against this backdrop, one might think that Trump would spend the next two and a half weeks swearing to voters that he’s finally taking the pandemic seriously and that he’s got a plan to tackle this thing, even if it means something like a national mask mandate, a move that experts say could stop the virus in its tracks in four to eight weeks. Instead he’s got a slightly different plan: ignore the whole thing and let nature take its course, i.e. trust in herd immunity, which could require some 2 million Americans to die. Per the New York Times:

The White House has embraced a declaration by a group of scientists arguing that authorities should allow the coronavirus to spread among young healthy people while protecting the elderly and the vulnerable—an approach that would rely on arriving at “herd immunity” through infections rather than a vaccine. Many experts say “herd immunity”—the point at which a disease stops spreading because nearly everyone in a population has contracted it—is still very far-off. Leading experts have concluded, using different scientific methods, that about 85 to 90% of the American population is still susceptible to the coronavirus.

On a call convened Monday by the White House, two senior administration officials, both speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to give their names, cited an October 4 petition titled The Great Barrington Declaration, which argues against lockdowns and calls for a reopening of businesses and schools…. Its lead authors include Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, an epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at Stanford University, the academic home of Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s science adviser. Dr. Atlas has also espoused herd immunity. The declaration’s architects include Sunetra Gupta and Gabriela Gomes, two scientists who have proposed that societies may achieve herd immunity when 10 to 20% of their populations have been infected with the virus, a position most epidemiologists disagree with.

“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health,” the declaration states, adding, “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.”

“The idea that herd immunity will happen at 10 or 20% is just nonsense,” Dr. Christopher J.L. Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told the Times. In August the Washington Post reported that roughly 65 to 70% of a population would need to be infected to achieve herd immunity, and with a population of 328 million, the U.S. could need 2.13 million people to die to cross that threshold.

This brilliant idea from the White House comes on the heels of an outbreak in Trump’s inner circle that has infected dozens of people so far. On Tuesday night the Department of Labor said the wife of Secretary Eugene Scalia had tested positive for the coronavirus, which is not entirely surprising given that she attended the super-spreader event at the White House to celebrate nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, Trump is scheduled to hold a rally in Iowa, where hospitalizations for the virus have hit a new high. Des Moines, where the event will take place, has been told to limit gatherings to 25 people on account of being labeled—by the White House!—a “yellow zone” for transmission of the virus. “If anyone in attendance is infectious, we are potentially looking at another super-spreader event,” Lina Tucker Reinders, executive director of the Iowa Public Health Association, told the Des Moines Register. “We again today set a record high for hospitalizations. We need to be focusing on bringing those numbers down and controlling the spread, not enabling large events, political or otherwise.”

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