A former writer for Atlantic Monthly and Kiplinger’s looks at the current COVID-19 writing in Fortune
The following is Bruce Brown‘s commentary from the Coronavirus Vaccine & Herd Immunity Digest on an article by Berhard Warner, “Sweden’s top virologist has a message on how to defeat coronavirus: Open schools and no masks,” that appeared in Fortune on August 5, 2020.
AMAZING, IN all the world and all the people in the world and all the media in the world, there turns out to be one nation, and one man, and one magazine with courage and vision to look the coronavirus crisis in the eye, and not blink.
And these exceptional qualities are found only in Sweden, Anders Tegnell and Fortune?! “OMG,” as my daughter would say!
PEOPLE, here’s our situation in a nutshell. We’ve got a pandemic raging, and if we’re going to get through this thing, our species has got to develop herd immunity to COVID-19 — either naturally (as we always have with plagues in the past), or with the aid of a vaccine (which can speed the natural process, and save lives).
This is not optional. For the sake of our species’ survival, we simply can not fail this task. Everyone is hoping for a vaccine by the end of the year, but every medical person I know is dubious that we will see broad distribution of an effective COVID-19 vaccine without side effects by January 1, 2021 — if ever, for that matter.
So the natural form of herd immunity must loom large in human thoughts about COVID-19. In fact, it may be our only real hope.
BUT THERE are a couple features of natural herd immunity that must be noted, starting with the fact that it is free, and requires no multi-billion funding from the government, or anyone else. This is a problem? Well, if you want Big Pharma companies like Pfizer and a host predatory stock brokers to make billions of dollars off this broad global COVID-19 calamity, then you’re not going to be a fan of natural herd immunity.
And here’s another significant detail about the natural herd immunity process. For it to work, many, many people MUST get infected, and then survive and get over it (just as they do following inoculation with the artificial vaccine; the two processes are fundamentally identical here).
Now some people clearly get very sick with COVID-19, as the unfortunate story of Broadway star Nick Cordero illustrates, but we know from Science Daily that between 45 percent and 96 percent of people who test positive for COVID-19 may have asymptomatic coronavirus infections, where they feel fine and many don’t even know they’re “sick”!
“Among more than 3,000 prison inmates in four states who tested positive for the coronavirus, the figure was astronomical: 96 percent asymptomatic.”From “Up to 96 percent of SARS-CoV-2 infections may be asymptomatic,” which appeared in Scientific Daily on June 12, 2020. (The Science Daily story was based on data from the Scripps Research Institute published in Annals of Internal Medicine.)
And the CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield recently acknowledged that his organization underestimated the total number of COVID-19 infections in the spring by more than 90 percent! In other words, it now appears that the total number of people with COVID-19 infections in April was nearly 10 times greater than we thought.
CAN YOU imagine better COVID-19 news?!
This is all very hopeful for fighting coronavirus because for natural herd immunity to work, you need many people to get infected, then have them get well with improved immunity.
The fact that the actual number of COVID-19 infected Americans is nearly 10 times as large as previously thought because so many COVID-19 infected people are asymptomatics also suggests that coronavirus may be less threatening for broad human populations than originally feared.
For one thing, far bigger COVID-19 infection counts inherently reduce the mortality rate calculated for coronavirus, which was once thought to be significant (although never as significant as the Spanish influenza of 1918). This new view of the dramatically decreased death rate now attributed to coronavirus is expressed by a recent New York Times story, which reported that COVID-19 is now believed to have a mortality rate of a little better than 1/2 of 1 percent, meaning one person in every 200 who catches it may be expected to die from it, statistically speaking.
So how bad is a mortality rate of 1/2 of one percent? Well, basically, among pandemics it compares pretty closely to the Asian flu pandemic of 1957-58, which was another novel coronavirus out of China that swept the globe.
The Asian flu killed about 120,000 people in the U.S. in 1957-58, but it did not shut down the human world, here or anywhere else.
SO LET ME get this straight. We’ve got a kind of a flu-like disease here with a kill rate that our culture already proved it can overcome without lock-downs in 1957? And the vast majority of the people who become infected with this flu-like disease will have asymptomatic infections, meaning they won’t even know they are sick while they’re doing their civic duty building herd immunity?
Well, then the responsible public health care path here is unequivocal and clear! We must open the countries up all over the world and ditch the mask requirements for everyone who doesn’t want to wear one. The point of this is to let COVID-19 simply sweep through the broad population. We must expect that one half of 1 percent of those infected with COVID-19 will die, but that number (expressing the often heart-breaking human cost) is microscopic compared to the kill rate for Bubonic plague of the Middle Ages, which may have killed over 50 percent the population of Europe. (Time to toughen up, Heather, and count your blessings.)
Besides, building broad immunity to COVID-19 in the population IS OUR ONLY PATH THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE of this pandemic. We’ve simply got to achieve herd immunity, vaccine or no. And the natural herd immunity path — meaning, broad exposure of the population to COVID-19 — is actually the cheapest way our species can buy it — in terms of the human cost, the cultural cost, and the economic cost.
So don’t be afraid and cower like women and children in the bottom of the boat! You are human beings. You rule this world. Now is the time to show your character and your courage.
ON AUGUST 5, 2020, Fortune reported that a leading international public health official, Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top virologist, has told the world pretty much just exactly this: “send the kids back to school and put away the masks“.
In response to which, I say — hooray for Sweden, hooray for Anders Tegnell, and hooray for Berhard Warner and Fortune for thinking independently!
Don’t see many like them around these parts any more.