STANFORD, CA — A fellow at Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution who last month joined President Trump’s coronavirus task force is advocating for a “herd immunity” strategy that has medical experts alarmed.
Scott Atlas is advocating for the loosening of restrictions so the healthy segment of the population can develop immunity to the coronavirus, The Washington Post reports.
Atlas is a neuroradiologist with no experience in epidemiology or any relevant public health or infectious disease expertise according to his Stanford bio page.
His strategy flies in the face of medical experts who say adherence to social distancing measures, mask-wearing and restrictions on outdoor gathers are the most effect ways to contain the outbreak.
But Atlas’ laissez-faire approach to the coronavirus has appealed to a president who is eager to move past the coronavirus crisis according to the report.
The World Health Organization’s chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, estimates 65 to 70 percent of a population would need to be infected in order to achieve herd immunity given the virus’ high transmission rate, the report said.
Reaching 65 percent in the United States with a population of 328 million would result in 2.13 million deaths assuming a 1 percent fatality rate.
"If we're waiting until 60 percent to 80 percent of people have it, we're talking about 200 million-plus Americans getting this -- and at a fatality rate of 1%, let's say, that's 2 million Americans who will die in this effort to try to get herd immunity," CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen said Monday.
"Those are preventable deaths of our loved ones that we can just not let happen under our watch."
Atlas has been at odds with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, according to the report.
Atlas denied advocating for herd immunity in a statement to The Post in which he said: “There is no policy of the President or this administration of achieving herd immunity. There never has been any such policy recommended to the President or to anyone else from me.”
But he’s made public comments that contradict this statement.
“When younger, healthier people get the disease, they don’t have a problem with the disease. I’m not sure why that’s so difficult for everyone to acknowledge,” Atlas said in a Fox interview in July.
“These people getting the infection is not really 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.”
Read more in The Washington Post