A northern California city official took to Facebook to extol what he sees as the virtues of herd immunity to solve the coronavirus pandemic. But not too long after he hit “post,” he was ousted for his cold-hearted words.
Ken Turnage, the now-former chairman of a planning commission in the northern California city of Antioch, was removed from his position in a unanimous vote following a special meeting called by the city’s mayor on Friday.
Turnage’s ouster followed an uproar caused by a personal Facebook post where he expressed his endorsement of “culling the herd” during the COVID-19 crisis.
“The World has been introduced to a new phrase Herd Immunity which is a good one. In my opinion, we need to adapt [sic] a Herd Mentality. A herd gathers, it ranks, it allows the sick, the old, the injured to meet its natural course in nature,” Turnage wrote in the now-deleted post.
Turnage continued his heartless post, writing, “Then we have our other sectors such as our homeless and other people who just defile themselves by either choice or mental issues. This would run rampant through them and yes I am sorry but this would fix what is a significant burden on our Society and resources that can be used.”
According to NBC Bay Area, Turnage refused to resign, saying he was “baffled” by the criticism.
During an emergency meeting held via conference call, city officials read comments submitted by citizens both in support of Turnage and against. According to the Los Angeles Times, one commenter, who said she was 72 years old and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, asked: “If someone is my age, do we simply let them die?”
Another called Turnage “repulsive enough to gag a maggot.” One submission said the removal of the chairman was an affront to free speech, calling it “communism in the making.”
Turnage is surely not alone. Protests, though mostly small in size, seem to support his idea of a sort of survival of the fittest philosophy and have sprung up across the country. The mayor of Vegas also recently made the same argument, calling on casinos to open their doors now and “find out” the life and death “facts afterward.”
What both the mayor and Turnage are missing in their ignorant, ableist arguments is: even if the weakest in society are sacrificed, there is no guarantee of which or how many of us will survive the virus. Besides, there is no guarantee COVID-19 will only take the weakest among us. Some elderly have lived through the disease while other previously healthy young people have perished from it. Both public officials are making an assumption, and a harsh one at that, with zero proof that herd immunity would work, especially considering scientists don’t yet know how long immunity to the virus lasts.