In recent days, the president and White House staff have pushed the concept of “herd immunity” — the notion that once a critical mass of Americans catch the coronavirus it will have fewer vulnerable targets to infect, and will slow or stop its spread. That achieving any sort of herd immunity requires great sickness and death does not appear to bother the president, who’s now under the sway of new pandemic svengali Scott Atlas, a radiologist and fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution. “We use the word ‘herd,'” Trump recently told interviewer Laura Ingraham. “Once you get to a certain number, it’s going to go away.”
This is not a public-health strategy. The one country that attempted something similar, Sweden, has an even worse Covid mortality rate than the United States. Simply put: It is surrender to a pandemic that Trump has bungled from the beginning and still refuses to take adequate federal action to control, in stark contrast to competently governed nations of the developed world.
The talk of herd immunity also marks the latest perverse evolution of a notion that has addled Trump’s brain since February: That the coronavirus — whether by heat, or by miracle, or by unchecked spread — will somehow “go away” on its own. Below Rolling Stone presents a time line of more than 20 instances in which the president promised Covid-19 would disappear, contrasted to the mounting American death toll from the virus.
February 10th — Death Count: 0
You know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April.
We’re fortunate so far. And we think it’s going to remain that way. China is working very, very hard. I have spoken to President Xi, and they’re working very hard. And if you know anything about him, I think he’ll be in pretty good shape.… They’re getting it more and more under control.… So I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away.
You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.
If we were doing a bad job, we should also be criticized. But we have done an incredible job. We’re going to continue. It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear. And from our shores, we — you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away.
March 6th — Death Count: 15
I don’t think people are panicking. I said last night — we did an interview on Fox last night, a town hall. I think it was very good. And I said, “Calm. You have to be calm.” It’ll go away.
March 10th — Death Count: 30
We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.
March 12th — Death Count: 41
It’s going to go away. It’s going to go way.
March 30th — Death Count: 4,105
It is going away, and it will go away. And we’re going to have a great victory.
April 1st — Death Count: 6,465
It’s going to go away, hopefully at the end of the month. And, if not, hopefully it will be soon after that.… This is going to be gone. It’ll be gone. Hopefully gone for a long time.
April 3rd — Death Count: 8,960
Trump: It is going to go away. It is going away.
Q: But, Mr. President, you said it was going to go away in April.… You said, “When it warmed up in April…”
Trump: I said it’s going away, and it is going away.
April 7th — Death Count: 15,755
Q: You were saying things like, “I think it’s a problem that’s going to go away within a couple of days.”
Trump: Which I’m right about. It did go — it will go away.
April 28th — Death Count: 60,405
Q: Back in late February, you predicted that the number of cases would go down to zero. How did we get from your prediction of zero to 1 million?
Trump: Well, it will go down to zero, ultimately.… A lot of movement and a lot of progress has been made in a vaccine. But I think what happens is it’s going to go away. This is going to go away.
May 6th — Death Count: 76,307
This virus is going to disappear. It’s a question of when.
May 8th — Death Count: 80,197
I feel about vaccines like I feel about tests. This is going to go away without a vaccine. It’s going to go away, and it’s — we’re not going to see it again, hopefully, after a period of time.
May 15th — Death Count: 91,149
We think we’re going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future. And if we do, we’re going to really be a big step ahead. And if we don’t, we’re going to be like so many other cases, where you had a problem come in, it’ll go away — at some point, it’ll go away.
June 16th — Death Count: 121,792
I always say, even without it, it goes away. But if we had the vaccine — and we will — if we had therapeutic, or cure — one thing sort of blends into the other — it will be a fantastic day.
July 19th — Death Count: 143,758
I’ll be right eventually. You know, I said, “It’s going to disappear.” I’ll say it again. And I’ll be right.
July 21st — Death Count: 145,486
Well, the virus will disappear. It will disappear.
July 23rd — Death Count: 147,915
It goes away, and it goes away quickly. The key is, we want it to go away without a lot of death, without a lot of problems.
August 8th — Death Count: 165,545
And we’re getting them [new jobs] even in a pandemic — which is disappearing; it’s going to disappear.
August 17th — Death Count: 174,215
And the China Plague will fade.
August 24th — Death Count: 181,074
And the pandemic goes away.
August 31st — Death Count: 187,736
And we use the word “herd.” Once you get to a certain number, it’s going to go away.