A controversial health adviser to President Trump is reportedly pushing the administration to adopt a “herd immunity” mentality to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to The Washington Post, radiologist Scott Atlas is advocating for the model Sweden has used to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak by letting the virus infect healthy people while only protecting the elderly and vulnerable.
The approach taken in the Scandinavian country was meant to let people get on with their lives free of any virus-related restrictions, something that Atlas, who recently joined the White House task force, has been advocating.
In a statement to The Hill, via the White House, Atlas said: “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. That’s a lie.”
Atlas joined the administration from the conservative Hoover Institution, where he advocated for policies that Trump has promoted.
Like Trump, Atlas has publicly questioned the value of doing more testing and has said pandemic restrictions amount to “panic.” He has argued that even if low-risk people get infected with COVID-19, it won’t lead to more deaths.
Atlas told the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this month that the coronavirus is very dangerous for high risk-individuals, mainly the elderly and people with underlying health conditions, but “not very dangerous” for low-risk people.
Trump has reportedly already enacted some policies with an eye toward herd immunity, including a recent change to health guidelines that would limit the number of people who get a coronavirus test.
Sweden’s approach has been heavily criticized as dangerous by public health experts in the U.S. and abroad, because the death toll would be enormous and there is no guarantee that herd immunity could even be achieved.
Conservatives opposed to mask mandates and restrictions on businesses have embraced the Swedish method, even as reports from earlier this summer showed it did not work.
Sweden saw thousands of more coronavirus deaths than neighboring countries, and its economy suffered similar to those that had lockdowns. The country is still far short of achieving herd immunity.
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