Medical experts warn against dangerous attempts to achieve herd immunity through infection.
Republican Nebraska state Sen. Mike Groene announced in an email to his colleagues on Monday that his wish had been granted: He has contracted the coronavirus.
"As you know, I finally got my wish and cont(r)acted the COVID-19 virus," Groene said in an email to state senators obtained by the Lincoln Journal Star. "As I suspected it would happen."
Groene told the paper he was glad to be done with the infection and feels that being infected is an option for achieving "herd immunity."
"I didn't do anything different than anybody else," Groene told local station KETV Omaha. "I'm glad I got it and got it over with. I don't see anything wrong with that."
He said: "I had it, I got over it, and everything's fine. I have no unique story. This happens 99.9% of the time."
The World Health Organization notes that achieving herd immunity, a state in which a majority of a population is immune to a given virus, "is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it."
WHO's position on herd immunity through infection is posted on the organization's website:
Attempts to reach "herd immunity" through exposing people to a virus are scientifically problematic and unethical. Letting COVID-19 spread through populations, of any age or health status will lead to unnecessary infections, suffering and death. The vast majority of people in most countries remain susceptible to this virus. ... We are still learning about immunity to COVID-19. Most people who are infected with COVID-19 develop an immune response within the first few weeks, but we don't know how strong or lasting that immune response is, or how it differs for different people. ... Until we better understand COVID-19 immunity, it will not be possible to know how much of a population is immune and how long that immunity last for, let alone make future predictions. These challenges should preclude any plans that try to increase immunity within a population by allowing people to get infected.
Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of the pediatric infectious diseases division at the University of Utah, told the American Independent Foundation: "The human cost of getting to herd immunity is staggering."
Dr. Saralyn Mark, a medical expert on public health preparedness and the American Medical Women's Association's lead on COVID-19, said that if people try to achieve herd immunity through infection, "millions of people could die."
Groene's conception of the benefits of being infected by a virus that's killed and sickened millions of people across the globe is shared by those at the very top of the current administration.
Donald Trump has insisted that what he calls "herd mentality" is going to magically develop and solve the problem of the pandemic.
"We're going to be OK, and it is going away. And it's probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines. It would go away without the vaccine," Trump said on Sept. 15. "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."
The next day, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a briefing: Herd immunity has never been a strategy here at the White House. The President last night was noting herd immunity is over a period of time. A country, a society, can reach herd immunity. It's a fact. It was not a strategy ever presented here at the White House."
Three anonymous senior health officials on the White House coronavirus task force told the Daily Beast at the end of last month that Scott Atlas, the neuroradiologist Trump appointed to head the task force, continues to push the dangerous concept as a supposed plan for stemming the spread of the virus:
Everything that comes out of Atlas' mouth is geared towards letting it rip and then just worry about protecting the vulnerable. Everything he says points to the fact that he believes herd immunity is a good option. Yet he denies he's pushing herd immunity as a strategy saying "No that's not what I'm doing." But he is.
Groene said: "I've been sick a lot of times. This is not different. This is not cancer. My God this hysteria."
As of this writing, over 10 million people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus, and over 240,000 have died.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.