Sure, Top HHS Aide Urged Infecting Everyone, But It's Not Like That Was Actually The Policy
When the history of the coronavirus pandemic (2020-20__?) eventually becomes an academic discipline, we bet there will be more than a few dissertations written about how much of the disaster can be blamed on Paul Alexander, the part-time assistant professor from Canada who somehow got a job as science advisor to then-spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services Michael Caputo. Alexander, we've previously learned, tried to boss around Anthony Fauci and demanded that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention change its scientific publications to better conform with Donald Trump's opinions on the coronavirus. Was Alexander one of the instigators of the Trump administration's inaction on COVID-19, or more of an ineffectual cheerleader?
Politico brings us a new installment in the still-developing scholarship on Dr. Alexander (PhD in health research methods, not an MD), revealing emails Alexander sent during the summer in which he urged the administration to get its act together and get lots of people infected with the virus. That way, the survivors would develop immunity and the pandemic would be forgotten as the economy came roaring back. And while the administration has denied it was pursuing a strategy of "herd immunity" through locking up Nana safely and letting the virus run wild, that was essentially what Trump's refusal to make any serious effort to control the virus resulted in. Like, apart from actually keeping Nana safe.
And here we are, with another grim round death toll of more than 300,000 Americans dead.
In a July 4 email to Caputo and other officials, Alexander wrote,
There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD.
The subject line reads, in part, "we need infected people."
Alexander also explained that in order to make sure plenty of people develop antibodies to the virus, it was absolutely necessary to get everyone out into public so they can share the virus (while protecting the most vulnerable through saying "Protect the vulnerable" a lot).
Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected… and recovered... with antibodies.... [ellipses in original, bold added by us -- Dok]
Elsewhere in the email, Alexander urged again that people be encouraged to let the virus spread, "kind of like measles parties," and lamented that Anthony Fauci, in telling people to wear masks and socially distance, was needlessly scaring people so they wouldn't do the sensible thing and get infected. In fact, he insisted, Fauci's appearances on TV were "undercutting" the administration's goals by "thwarting all efforts to deal with the virus in a positive way." By literally hugging it, or at least plenty of infected folks.
In a July 27 email to CDC Director Robert Redfield, Alexander bemoaned the fact that colleges and universities had remained closed after spring break, because
we essentially took off the battlefield the most potent weapon we had...younger healthy people, children, teens, young people who we needed to fastly [sic] infect themselves, spread it around, develop immunity, and help stop the spread.
Dang, talk about a missed opportunity! Far too many people didn't get the long-term heart and lung damage that would have been the building blocks of a robust economy. While Alexander was shitcanned from HHS on Sept. 16, the same day Caputo left the agency after some kind of mental health crisis, we're sure Alexander must be positively giddy at all the infections in this fall's surge, though perhaps a bit sad that vaccines are being rolled out, because that will muddy the waters when it comes to determining whether making everyone sick was a great victory.
And let's take a look at one more email, this one from July 3, which seems to channel what became Donald Trump's own attitude toward the virus: Let healthy people get it, because that's fine, they'll live. Alexander wrote,
So the bottom line is if it is more infectiouness [sic] now, the issue is who cares? If it is causing more cases in young, my word is who cares…as long as we make sensible decisions, and protect the elderely [sic] and nursing homes, we must go on with life….who cares if we test more and get more positive tests.
And yes, even at that late point in the pandemic, by which 129,000 Americans had died, the fucker insisted that, other than the old and weak (who need to be protected somehow!) "we have more to fear from seasonal influenza" and even from Ebola, which Alexander reminds was all Obama's fault. What a great mind.
What's still not clear is whether Alexander's cheerleading for the virus actually had much influence on policy. The other big booster of herd immunity, radiologist Scott Atlas, went from Fox News to more or less overshadowing the real experts on the White House coronavirus task force, despite having no background in epidemiology or infectious disease. Unlike Atlas, who was able to whisper sweet do-nothings into Donald Trump's ear, Alexander may or may not have actually had any real ability to shape policy.
Politico's Dan Diamond notes that since Caputo was Trump's personal pick for HHS comms chief, officials said that
they believed that when Alexander made recommendations, he had the backing of the White House.
"It was understood that he spoke for Michael Caputo, who spoke for the White House," said Kyle McGowan, a Trump appointee who was CDC chief of staff before leaving this summer. "That's how they wanted it to be perceived."
That said, others at HHS said Alexander had spent six months sending a lot of badly written emails into the void.
"His rants had zero impact on policy and communications," a senior administration official insisted. "Caputo enabled him to opine, but people pushed back and it even got to a point where Caputo told him to stop sending the emails."
Mind you, that comment comes well after Alexander and Caputo are gone, in the middle of a new wave of infections, deaths, and overburdened hospitals. An HHS spokesperson gave Diamond the usual anodyne statement about how Alexander had a top position in the department without actually doing anything, saying Alexander's calls for herd immunity
"absolutely did not" shape department strategy.
"Dr. Paul Alexander previously served as a temporary Senior Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and is no longer employed at the Department," the spokesperson said.
Apparently he just got coffee for people now and then, like so many other unpersons who held high rank but turned into an embarrassment.
The latest batch of emails was released by the House Oversight Committee's subcommittee on the government's coronavirus response, chaired by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina). Clyburn said the emails "show a pernicious pattern of political interference by Administration officials," and added that the administration continues to drag its feet on releasing documents his committee has requested. The Alexander emails, for instance, were only delivered after the election, some two months after Clyburn requested them. Sounds like it's well past time for some subpoenas.
And for that matter, we need a Truth Commission, too, a full 9/11 style independent panel with subpoena power. There's so much more we need to know about how the administration decided a few hundred thousand lives were expendable.
And perhaps the words "we want them infected" and "who cares?" can be inscribed on a monument of shame somewhere.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can set up a monthly $5 to $10 donation, we would care very much indeed.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.