The White House is doubling down on its push to reopen the economy, now openly embracing a herd immunity strategy at the urging of some health experts.
Two senior advisers told Newsweek and other media outlets on Monday that the Trump administration supports the Great Barrington Declaration, a controversial document that argues against lockdowns and calls for a reopening of schools, businesses and other entities, while protecting people deemed vulnerable to the virus because of age or other risk factors.
“I think Americans should be cautiously optimistic about what’s going on here,” one of the officials said.
The officials were not authorized to speak on-the-record about the matter, but both defended the decision to move toward a broad-scale reopening, even though at least 5,900 people in the United States died with COVID-19 last week.
The coronavirus has contributed to the deaths of more than 214,000 people in the U.S. since the pandemic began earlier this year.
Experts have argued that approaching “herd immunity”—essentially allowing more people to contract COVID-19 in the hopes that they would quickly recover and create a mass immunity—would likely result in many more deaths and illnesses.
World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters during a virtual press briefing on Monday that such an approach would be “unethical.”
“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” he said.
President Donald Trump has mentioned the idea in the past, mistakenly referring to it as “herd mentality,” and the