Today The New York Times reported that the White House has embraced a petition from a group of scientists that endorses controversial herd immunity tactics for beating the coronavirus while at the same time opposing lockdowns. Known as the Great Barrington Declaration, the document argues for a fairly laissez-faire approach to tackling COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know:
- The declaration says almost all businesses and organizations should reopen: “Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young, low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport, and other cultural activities should resume.”
- The young should go about their lives: The declaration also says the young, due to their chances of fewer serious consequences from COVID-19, should go about their lives as normal, pre-pandemic. While the young should still wash their hands regularly and stay home if sick, they should basically get back out there in the world and start partaking in economic activity.
- The old and vulnerable should continue to shelter: While the young are out living their lives like the coronavirus isn’t a thing, the old should continue to shelter in place when possible and continue to abide by social distancing and other preventative measures such as limiting contact with others inside.
- The aim of all this? It’s to achieve herd immunity. “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity,” the declaration states, “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.”
- The big problem with all this: As The New York Times points out, herd immunity is still far, far off. Most experts say up to 90% of Americans are still susceptible to the disease, which makes herd immunity a pipe dream any time soon.
- So who’s behind the declaration? The libertarian-leaning research firm American Institute for Economic Research, according to The New York Times. Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s controversial science adviser, is one of the document’s lead authors.
- What would happen if the declaration was adopted on a national scale? If you could actually convince everyone to throw their health to the wind and go about their lives as normal pre-pandemic, economic activity would almost certainly pick up. However, within weeks the virus would likely surge, infecting possibly millions and killing thousands. When that would happen, the economy dies again as the virus is simply more widespread than it was before.