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Trump floats 'herd mentality' coronavirus strategy — instead of immunity — and again insists the disease will disappear

Business Insider logo Business Insider 9/16/2020 oseddiq@insider.com (Oma Seddiq)
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump. Reuters/Carlos Barria © Reuters/Carlos Barria President Donald Trump. Reuters/Carlos Barria
  • During an ABC News town hall on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump touted herd immunity but mistakenly referred to the controversial coronavirus strategy as "herd mentality."
  • "You'll develop like a herd mentality — it's going to be herd-developed, and that's going to happen," he said.
  • Herd immunity happens when enough of a population is immune to a disease that its transmission is interrupted. 
  • Health experts, however, have cautioned against this approach in the absence of a vaccine because it could cause hundreds of thousands more deaths.
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President Donald Trump on Tuesday touted a controversial strategy to combat the coronavirus pandemic — though he misspoke while doing it.

"It would go away without the vaccine," Trump said during an ABC News town hall. 

He added: "Over a period of time, sure, with time, it goes away and you'll develop, you'll develop like a herd mentality — it's going to be herd-developed, and that's going to happen. That will all happen."

Trump appeared to be talking about herd immunity, which occurs when enough of a population has developed resistance to a virus — whether through exposure or through a vaccine — to interrupt the spread. Without a vaccine, the strategy involves allowing the disease to spread through young and healthy people while protecting vulnerable groups like the elderly.

Sweden adopted this approach, having never introduced lockdowns to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but it wound up with far more deaths than neighboring countries that did enforce stay-at-home orders.

 

Top health officials, including the US coronavirus task-force members Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, have strongly advised the Trump administration against such a strategy — which experts have said could cost hundreds of thousands more lives.

"As you know, Dr. Fauci disagrees with that," the ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos told Trump during the town hall.

"But a lot of people do agree with me. You look at Scott Atlas," Trump replied, referring to his new coronavirus adviser — who has no background in epidemiology or infectious diseases and has reportedly pushed the idea.

"But with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly, but I really believe we're rounding the corner," Trump added. "It is going to disappear."

In addition to the suggestion that the virus might quickly disappear — a claim he's made throughout the pandemic — Trump repeated several other talking points when answering questions from voters. He claimed the US had recorded the most coronavirus cases in the world only because its testing rate outpaced other countries', and he insisted that he didn't downplay the severity of the disease despite acknowledging on tape to the journalist Bob Woodward that he did exactly that.

On Wednesday morning, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany sought to clarify Trump's remarks, saying, "What the president said very clearly there was that a vaccine gets you there quickest."

This article has been updated.

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