By letting the coronavirus surge through the population with only minimal social distancing measures in place, the U.S. has accidentally become the world’s largest experiment in herd immunity.
Why it matters: Letting the virus spread while minimizing human loss is doable, in theory. But it requires very strict protections for vulnerable people, almost none of which the U.S. has established.
The big picture: Cases are skyrocketing, with hospitalizations and deaths following suit in hotspots. Not a single state has ordered another lockdown, even though per capita cases in Florida and Arizona have reached levels similar to New York and New Jersey’s in April.
- Most states never built up the testing, contact tracing and isolation systems it would take to prevent the virus from spreading widely.
- The Trump administration is generally ignoring or downplaying soaring caseloads across the South and West, and is pushing schools to fully reopen in the fall.
- In Florida, where infections, hospitalizations and deaths are surging, Gov. Ron DeSantis “has repeatedly ruled out a sweeping mask mandate or taking the state back into a lockdown to stem the virus, although local governments have acted on their own,” per Bloomberg.
Between the lines: Separating older, sicker people from younger, healthier ones while the virus burns through the latter group could be a way to achieve herd immunity — assuming immunity exists — without hundreds of thousands of people dying.
- But the U.S. hasn’t adopted such a strategy with any planning or foresight. Although younger people make up a larger portion of coronavirus cases now than they did earlier in the pandemic, vulnerable people still go to work or live with non-vulnerable people.
Yes, but: Some cities and states, particularly in the Northeast, are focused on containing the virus rather than living with it.