In the days following President Trump’s apparent recovery from COVID-19, he and his administration have returned to pushing the notion that America should fight the pandemic by attempting to achieve so-called herd immunity, rather than trying to stop the spread through the use of masks and by reducing in-person contacts.
On Sunday, one day after his doctors cleared his return to the campaign trail, Trump posted a tweet that was quickly flagged on Twitter as spreading misinformation.
“A total and complete sign off from White House Doctors yesterday. That means I can’t get it (immune), and can’t give it. Very nice to know!!! ” the president wrote.
In fact, some people — very few — who have recovered from COVID-19 have been infected a second time, apparently with a mutated strain of the virus. The idea behind herd immunity is that if a high enough percentage of a population, upwards of 60 to 70 percent, is exposed to a virus and produces antibodies for it, the chain of infection will be broken.
Vaccination is one way that communities can help achieve herd immunity — which is why doctors urge patients young and old to get the flu shot each year — because it introduces a small amount of the virus into the human body, triggering the production of antibodies.
But for now, at least, a COVID-19 vaccine remains elusive and the U. S. is nowhere close to herd immunity. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is a little less than 8 million; the actual number is believed to be considerably higher, but epidemiologists estimate that 85 to 90 percent of Americans are still susceptible to catching the disease. There have been more than 216, 000 confirmed deaths from the disease in the U. S., implying a case fatality rate that could be as high as 2. 74 percent. But even a much lower rate, applied to the population range still susceptible to contracting COVID-19, could result in a staggering death toll, far exceeding current fatalities.
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