Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday denounced the concept of “herd immunity” — the idea that a disease will stop spreading once nearly everybody has contracted it —calling it "total nonsense."
“If you talk to anybody who has any experience in epidemiology and infectious diseases, they will tell you that that is risky and you’ll wind up with many more infections of vulnerable people, which will lead to hospitalizations and death,” the nation's top infectious disease expert told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday. “So I think that we’ve just got to look that square in the eye and say it’s nonsense.”
The White House has been advocating the herd immunity approach to bolster a push to reopen schools and businesses. During a call with reporters on Monday, a senior White House official cited an online movement called the “Great Barrington Declaration,” which favors reopening the country over lockdowns, NBC News reported.
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The declaration, according to one administration official, means that dealing "with this pandemic is something that centers on aggressive protection of the vulnerable, opening all schools, opening businesses and society, and ending the prolonged lockdowns."
The declaration, however, assumes that people who are vulnerable to serious illnesses can be protected, but that's "ridiculous,” Fauci said.
"If you just let things rip and let the infection go — no masks, crowd, it doesn't make any difference — that quite frankly is ridiculous because what that will do is that there will be so many people in the community that you can't shelter, that you can't protect, who are going to get sick and get serious consequences," Fauci told ABC.
The U.S. leads the world with 7.9 million coronavirus cases and nearly 217,000 confirmed deaths. Globally, there have been 38 million reported cases and 1.09 million confirmed deaths.
Fauci also urged Americans to rethink their usual plans for Thanksgiving gatherings, citing increased coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in more than two dozen states around the country.
He said that given the rise in cases, “we’ve really got to double down on fundamental public health measures that we talk about every day because they can make a difference.”
Millions of Americans normally travel to gather with families and friends on Thanksgiving. Fauci said this November may need to be different. “We really have to be careful this time that each individual family evaluates the risk-benefit.”
Fauci said it's especially important because people traveling over the holiday often pass through crowded transportation hubs such as airports.
“If you have vulnerable people, the elderly or people that have underlying conditions, you better consider whether you want to do that now or maybe just forestall it and wait,” he said.