Despite publicly downplaying it, President Donald Trump and his team of White House advisers have embraced the controversial belief that herd immunity will help control the COVID-19 outbreak, according to three senior health officials working with the White House coronavirus task force.
Officials say that White House adviser Scott Atlas first started pushing herd immunity this past summer despite significant pushback from scientists, doctors and infectious disease experts that the concept was dangerous and would result in far more Americans getting sick and dying.
Since then, various White House advisers have tried to play down the idea that the administration has implemented a strategy for COVID-19 based on herd immunity, which holds that if enough people contract a disease and become immune from it, then future spread among the broader population will be less likely.
Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, told reporters in September that "herd immunity has never been a strategy" fostered by the Trump administration.
“As we have specifically stated many times on the record and in print, we emphatically deny that the White House, the President, the Administration, or anyone advising the President has pursued or advocated for any strategy of achieving herd immunity by letting the coronavirus infection spread through the community,” the statement read.
Though Atlas insists he has not pushed “herd immunity,” another official said Atlas actually began advocating for the concept—and the president became receptive to it—at the same time as task force officials were being sidelined from conversations about how the administration planned to handle what many predicted would be a difficult fall season.
Since then, officials said, the White House has been largely focused on getting a vaccine out to the American people and has left the fight against the community spread to one task force official: Dr.
Birx, the White House task force coordinator, has been on the road for months trying to convince Americans to wear masks and social distance.
Health officials say that the practical acceptance of herd immunity by the president could lead to a dangerous and potentially deadly new phase in the pandemic, even if it is accompanied by a simultaneous effort to screen and protect seniors and those with comorbidities.
The Washington Post first reported in August that Atlas was urging the White House to foster the herd immunity idea
“There’s never been any advocacy of herd immunity coming from me to the president to anyone in the administration, to the task force, to anyone I’ve spoken to,” Atlas said
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