Donald Trump would really prefer not to think about the COVID-19 pandemic, because it's just so boring and unsexy and you can't even send police to rough it up to teach it a lesson. That explains his eagerness to talk about almost anything else, even as we're approaching 185,000 deaths from the disease. Thank heaven for riots! As the Washington Post reports, Trump has finally found a coronavirus adviser who's telling him exactly what he wants to hear: How about we do very little and call that a plan? While work on a vaccine proceeds, all we have to do is let the virus run rampant among people who aren't in the most vulnerable risk groups. At some point, enough Americans will have had the disease that they'll be resistant to it, and unable to infect others. That's the basic idea of "herd immunity," which is usually the result of having a large portion of the population vaccinated against infectious diseases.

The "policy" is reportedly being pushed by Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who is untainted by any expertise in epidemiology or infectious disease, but who is a fellow at the rightwing Hoover Institution at Stanford, and, more important, has appeared on Fox News to say things Trump likes to hear. Atlas, who we suspect may have changed his name from Merkwuerdigliebe, was hired in August to advise Trump on pandemic policy, because we all live in Hell now. According to five unnamed people "familiar with the discussions," Atlas has

advocated that the United States adopt the model Sweden has used to respond to the virus outbreak, according to these officials, which relies on lifting restrictions so healthy people can build immunity to the disease rather than limiting social and business interactions to prevent the virus from spreading.

That's a great idea, except for how Sweden's strategy has been an abject failure by all measures except in the minds of rightwingers who think Sweden's having one of the highest death rates in Europe is just dandy. You see, Sweden may have suffered a huge hit to its GDP, but it also is underperforming comparing to its neighbors. And all it took was a death rate that was astronomically higher. America has already killed vast numbers of people with its reckless policies, so let's give it a try!


Now, to be clear, while Atlas "declined" to be interviewed for the Post story, he did issue a denial once it went live, and then got straight to lying about it, too!

"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."

At an event Monday in Florida with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Atlas falsely said The Washington Post never asked him for a comment.

The White House issued a statement insisting there's been no change in its pandemic strategy, not even any discussion of changing it. Which is easy to deny, since there really isn't any strategy at all except blame China, blame the states, blame Obama, and insist the virus will just go away.

The Post points out, however, that Trump's own statements about the pandemic have long advocated going full speed ahead with reopening, just as long as we're careful to lock up the olds and people at high risk.

We are aggressively sheltering those at highest risk, especially the elderly, while allowing lower-risk Americans to safely return to work and to school, and we want to see so many of those great states be open," he said during his address to the Republican National Convention on Thursday night. "We want them to be open. They have to be open. They have to get back to work."

Everyone else will be just fine, as long as you pretend long-term lung and heart and neurological problems count as "just fine." Just think! You could have a permanent disability AND a second Trump term!

This Atlas guy really sounds like a piece of work. One "senior administration official" said Atlas likes to come across as the "anti-Fauci"; he'll be the medical expert (with no expertise) who'll back Trump up, not rain facts on his wish parade. He says a high case count is just fine as long as the most vulnerable folks are protected, which is a bit of a problem considering that large portions of the US population actually have those pesky risk factors like heart disease, lung disease, and obesity. And no, not all olds live in nursing homes, either. Maybe they should, since we need to get all the kids in school, where maybe they'll be fine.

Still, Atlas seems awfully fond of letting healthy people get very very sick, because they'll be fine, other than the ones who aren't.

"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 an interview with Fox News's Brian Kilmeade 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."

And the weak? Maybe we don't really need them anyway. Atlas also doesn't think it makes sense "scientifically" for people to wear masks, so that's probably music to Trump's ears.

The Post notes that there's not yet enough data to determine for sure what portion of the population would need to be infected and survive to provide herd immunity, but World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan estimates it would probably be somewhere between 65 and 70 percent.

Assuming a one percent fatality rate, the Post calculates, that would amount to roughly 2.1 million dead Americans to achieve the lower 65 percent figure. Easy-peasy, you probably don't know many of them. Oh yes, and then there's also one three other factors that complicate this happy little plan to kill 2,100,0000 people in hopes of herd immunity:

It also remains unclear whether people who recover from covid-19 have long-term immunity to the virus or can be reinfected, and scientists are still learning who is vulnerable to the disease. And from a practical standpoint, it is nearly impossible to sufficiently isolate people most at risk of dying of covid-19 from the healthier population, according to public health experts.

Yes, yes, but those are mere technical quibbles. Maybe the old and vulnerable could be sealed in mineshafts with caregivers. Animals could be bred ... und slaughtered for food, and in only a few years the people could emerge to a warm welcome and probably not a whole new pandemic.

Look, if we could send a man to the moon, build a nuclear first-strike capability that could kill hundreds of millions of people, and come up with energy sources that are on track to make the planet uninhabitable, we can certainly sacrifice a couple million Americans for the sake of the Dow Jones. We just need to put our minds to it.

[WaPo]

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Doktor Zoom

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.

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