A Republican member of the Alabama state Senate serving as a member of the state’s coronavirus task force says he’s not fazed by a recent surge in confirmed cases. In fact, he would “like to see more people” contract the virus in order to build herd immunity.
Sen. Del Marsh made the remarks to local reporters on Thursday when asked if he was concerned about a spike in COVID-19 cases. The state recorded 2,164 new cases on Thursday, setting a daily record. Hospitalizations have also climbed, with the number of coronavirus-related hospital stays reportedly doubling over the past two weeks.
The Alabama Department of Public Health has reported 11,000 new cases in just the first nine days of July.
“I’m not as concerned as much as the number of cases—and in fact, quite honestly—I want to see more people, because we start reaching an immunity as more people have it and get through it,” Marsh said. “I don’t want any deaths, as few as possible… so those people who are susceptible to the disease, those with pre-existing conditions, elderly population, those folks, we need to do all we can to protect them. But I’m not concerned.”
Marsh, who was tapped in March to serve as president pro tempore on Gov. Kay Ivey’s COVID-19 task force, appeared to be referring to the concept of herd immunity, which means that once a certain threshold of infections is reached and immunity builds in the population, the virus won’t be able to spread as easily. Scientists have already cautioned that a herd immunity strategy won’t be effective against COVID-19—a warning grimly illustrated in Sweden, where an anti-lockdown strategy led to a death rate among the world’s highest, at 43 deaths per 100,000 people.
Marsh’s comments were in stark contrast to a sobering warning from the Alabama Hospital Association that the state’s hospitals are already under strain and yet rising numbers haven’t even taken into account the surge of cases expected to come as a result of the Fourth of July weekend.
“I think this is probably the most frightening part of this, none of these numbers reflect the effect of the Fourth of July,” Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told local news station WBRC, adding that there is “major movement in the wrong direction.”
“We set a new record in terms of number of people in the hospital. We set a new record in terms of number of people who were admitted yesterday. We had the fewest number of ICU beds available statewide that we’ve ever had,” Williamson said in separate comments to WSFA 12 News.
“I’m trying to prepare people for what’s coming,” he said.