Republican governor obliterates herd immunity argument with simple math
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is a self-professed numbers guy. He studied economics and used to work for a bank before getting into politics. In short, he likes numbers, and he likes math.
He’s good at both and made clear Monday that the numbers side of the notion that the U.S. just needs to let the coronavirus spread until we have “herd immunity” doesn’t add up.
“I’ve listened to some people argue that the rapid spread of cases is a good thing, and we need to reach herd immunity in Mississippi and elsewhere to survive,” Reeves said. “I’m not a health care expert by any means, but I am a math guy.
Reeves said the experts suggest that 70 to 80 percent of the population would need to get the COVID-19 coronavirus to reach herd immunity.
“Let’s assume they’re wrong,” he suggested. “Let’s assume they’re being way overly cautious and we actually only need 40 percent infection for herd immunity.”
“In Mississippi, our population is 3 million. We’ve had 36,680 cases so far,” he said. “We’d need 1.2 million infections to achieve that hypothetical 40 percent threshold. Remember, experts say it’s double that.”
Reeves said Mississippi’s hospital systems had been stressed during the least couple of weeks and has shown the “early signs and effects of it becoming overwhelmed.”
Lack of available hospital beds, particularly ICU beds, has become so bad Reeves ordered the suspension of elective surgeries this week if the surgeries would require overnight stays in the hospital.
“On our worst day of new cases, we had just over 1,000. It has typically been between 700-900 during this most aggressive time,” Reeves said. “To get to 40 percent infections, we’d need 3,187 new cases every day for a full year from today.
“We would need to TRIPLE our worst day—every day—for a year,” he said. “Herd immunity is not anything like a realistic solution in the short or mid-term. I wish it was.”
“Unless you’re willing to go without hospitals after a car wreck or heart attack, we need a different approach,” he said. “Right now, despite mixed messages at the beginning, it seems like masks are the best bet. They’re a hell of a lot better than widespread shutdowns. Please wear one!”
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