The Real Cost of Herd Immunity Is 5.9 Million American Deaths

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In a September 15th ABC Town Hall, Donald Trump repeated claims that the COVID-19 health crisis can be solved through herd immunity, claiming, “it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, herd immunity occurs when a large enough portion of a population becomes infected that it becomes less likely a virus will spread, thus protecting the whole group.

Calculating the casualties necessary to achieve herd immunity in the U.S. can be done with what we already know about the virus. Epidemiologists estimate that a 60-80% infection rate is necessary to achieve herd immunity and believe that number is closer to 60% for COVID-19. A 60% infection rate among the U.S. population would be: 331,002,651 x .6 = 198,601,590 million people infected.

According to Johns Hopkins, the observed COVID-19 mortality rate in the U.S. is 3%. So, of those 198 million infections, approximately 3%, or 5,958,047 people would die.

This is a stunning acceptance of mass casualties as a result of inaction.

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Fact Quotes

Stephanopoulos: It would go away without the vaccine?

Trump: Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it goes away.

Stephanopoulos: And many deaths.

Trump: And you’ll develop — you’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality. It’s going to be — it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.

ABC News

“You could imagine that once 60% of the population is infected, the number of infections starts to drop. But it might be another 20% that gets infected while the disease is starting to die out,” said Joel Miller of La Trobe University in Australia.

That 60% is also the threshold past which new introductions of the virus — say, an infected passenger disembarking from a cruise ship into a healthy port with herd immunity — will quickly burn out.

“It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to start a fire at all, but that outbreak is going to die,” said Kate Langwig of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.