Mr. Trump should ask very hard questions about this. An analysis by The Post showed that in the United States, with a population of 328 million, reaching a 65 percent threshold for herd immunity could lead to 2.13 million deaths. This was the pandemic approach in Sweden, and it did not turn out well.
In response to The Post’s report about these discussions, Mr. Trump’s new pandemic adviser, Scott Atlas, issued a statement through the White House denying that the president has a policy of achieving herd immunity. However, Dr. Atlas, a neuroradiologist and fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, has been campaigning for more schools to open in-person classrooms, playing down testing and criticizing lockdowns.
Dr. Atlas has asserted that young people have little or no risk. “When younger, healthier people get the disease, they don’t have a problem with the disease,” he said in July. “These people getting the infection is really not a problem, and in fact, as we said months ago, when you isolate everyone, including all the healthy people, you’re prolonging the problem because you’re preventing population immunity. Low-risk groups getting the infection is not a problem.”
It is true that children are less likely to get severe cases, and mortality is low, but to dismiss the dangers as “not a problem” is reckless disregard for the adults in a society who are constantly mingling with young people. Dr. Atlas should take note of outbreaks spreading across U.S. college campuses; separately, the latest data from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows a 17 percent jump in child cases over two weeks in August. Dr. Atlas has also suggested that asymptomatic people should not be tested. This is another reckless idea; public health experts say that people without symptoms can still transmit the virus and testing should be more widespread, not less.
Ultimately, an effective vaccine or therapy can break the pandemic. Until then, what’s needed are concerted measures to slow viral transmission: wearing face masks; avoiding gatherings in enclosed spaces; testing, tracing and isolating the sick; and closures as necessary. The restrictions are hard after months of sacrifice. The economic and psychic toll is undeniable. But until a vaccine or drug arrives, there is no magic wand to make the virus disappear. Everyone must understand the virus is relentless, opportunistic and, for 181,000 Americans, so far, a real killer.