Any attempt to get coronavirus herd immunity would lead to massive death tolls, Fauci warns
Posted August 14, 2020 3:55 a.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2020 7:47 a.m. EDT
CNN — If the United States allowed coronavirus infections to run rampant to achieve possible herd immunity, the death toll would be massive especially among vulnerable people, the nation's top infectious doctor said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained the risks during a live Instagram session with actor Matthew McConaughey.
"If everyone contracted it, even with the relatively high percentage of people without symptoms ... a lot of people are going to die," Fauci said.
"You look at the United States of America with our epidemic of obesity as it were. With the number of people with hypertension. With the number of people with diabetes. If everyone got infected, the death toll would be enormous and totally unacceptable," he said.
Herd immunity is reached when around 70% to 90% of a population becomes immune to a disease either through infection and recovery or vaccination. When that happens, the disease is less likely to spread to people who aren't immune because there just aren't enough infectious carriers to reach them.
It is still unclear whether survivors of Covid-19 have immunity, though some have still suggested that allowing Covid-19 to plow through populations might help reach herd immunity more quickly if possible -- but it would be a disaster for hospitals. Doctors would be overwhelmed and more people would die, not just from coronavirus but from other infections, too.
Tens of thousands more deaths projected
Coronavirus has killed more than 167,000 people and infected over 5.2 million nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In the next three weeks, that number will go up with a total of nearly 189,000 projected, according to an ensemble forecast published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new projections released Thursday forecast 188,982 deaths by September 5 -- with a possible range of 181,375 to 201,431 deaths.
"State- and territory-level ensemble forecasts predict that the number of reported new deaths per week may increase over the next four weeks in Colorado and may decrease in Arizona, the Northern Mariana Islands, Vermont and Wyoming," the CDC said.
The prediction relies on about two dozen individual forecasts from outside institutions and researchers.
Unlike some individual models, the CDC's ensemble forecast offers projections only about a month ahead. A previous ensemble forecast, published July 23, projected roughly 164,477 coronavirus deaths by Saturday.
"You can't run away from the numbers," Fauci said. "You can't run away from the numbers of people who've died, the number of people getting hospitalized, the surges we're seeing."
The US has averaged over 1,000 reported daily deaths for 18 consecutive days.
Georgia records highest death toll since pandemic started
Georgia was one of the first states to reopen after being one of the last ones to shut down. This week, it recorded its highest death toll since the pandemic started.
The state reported 136 deaths Tuesday -- its most in a single day -- and an additional 109 deaths Wednesday, according to health officials. Its health department reported 2,674 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday. The virus has killed a total of 4,538 people in the state.
And in North Carolina, the department of health said "an error" has reduced the total official count of cumulative coronavirus tests performed since the pandemic started. The number has gone down from 2,044,727 to 1,823,283, said Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state's top health official.
The error was due to a discrepancy between electronic and manual reporting of test data submitted by the company LabCorp. The error affected the overall number of tests previously reported but it does not change the total confirmed positive cases, the total deaths or the percent positive calculation, the department of health said.
In a sign the virus may be around for a while, Kansas City, Missouri, is extending its coronavirus state of emergency into the beginning of next year. Emergency orders will be in effect until at least January 16, 2021.
"It is now obvious to everyone that Covid-19 is not going away over the next five months," said Dr. Rex Archer, the director of the city's health department.
House party is same as going to a bar, official says
As the long holiday weekend gets closer, officials are warning against social events.
Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, emphasized the need for coronavirus mitigation measures during the Labor Day weekend. He urged people to avoid crowds -- particularly in indoor spaces.
"We talk about bars, but if you have a house party with a hundred people in your living room, that's the same equivalent," he said. He described a crowd of people indoors, drinking, talking and not wearing masks a formula for disaster.
"What you really need to do -- whether you're in a hot area or not -- please wear a mask," Giroir said.
Good hand hygiene is also essential, he said.