Wrangling Over Herd Immunity and Masks as Covid Cases Keep Rising – The New York Times

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To the Editor:

Re “The Steep Costs of ‘Herd Immunity,’[1]” by John M. Barry (Op-Ed, Oct. 20):

Having failed miserably at protecting Americans from becoming sick or dying of Covid-19, President Trump, attempting to seize victory from the jaws of defeat, now seems to want as many healthy Americans as possible to catch the virus. That way, those who are left alive will be immune and the pandemic will disappear — like magic, or hydroxychloroquine or Clorox! Herd immunity is the president’s latest pandemic panacea.

Even if the warnings of expert scientists prevail, Mr. Trump has further encouraged a Covid-weary population, eager to breathe free, to stop wearing masks and keeping their distance. And while younger people sneeze and cough their way to presumed immunity, how might older people escape this potentially deadly infection?

Mary-Lou Weisman
Westport, Conn.

To the Editor:

John M. Barry makes a great case for what an unethical and untenable idea it is to pursue herd immunity for Covid-19. But he leaves out the implicit eugenics of the approach. Those who are constitutionally weaker, those who are minorities (who seem to have greater morbidity and mortality) and those who are lower in socioeconomic classes or in public service jobs (New York City transit workers have a 25 percent infection rate, according to one study[2]) would all be sacrificed for the greater good.

There is a saying that “the greatness of a nation can be judged by how it treats its weakest members.”

David J. Melvin
Chester, N.J.

To the Editor:

Thank you for Prof. John M. Barry’s sober article addressing the possibility of herd immunity from Covid-19. Such advice coming from the White House reminds me of a notorious excuse from the time of the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

Heaven help us.

Barry Spikings
West Hollywood, Calif.

To the Editor:

President Trump says Americans are “tired of Covid-19” and mocks Joe Biden for pledging to follow the science.

He’s right that Americans are tired of the virus. But his conclusion that we want to ignore the pandemic and get back to our normal routines despite the imminent danger is dead wrong. Americans want our leaders to be responsible in getting us out of this deadly health threat, and to do that we want them to follow the science. That is why people overwhelmingly trust Dr. Anthony Fauci and distrust the president.

In mocking Joe Biden, and by ignoring the deadly effects of the pandemic, Mr. Trump is following his familiar playbook. When faced with financial failure he declares bankruptcy and leaves others to pay the bills. When faced with personal failure he deflects with lies and humiliation. When faced with political failure he doubles down with demagogy and appeals to racism that inflame passions and divide Americans.

He is a mockery of a leader, and more than anything, we are tired of him.

Seymour Rosenbloom
Elkins Park, Pa.
The writer, a rabbi, is a board member of Democratic Jewish Outreach PA.

To the Editor:

In August almost half a million bikers from all over the country attended a 10-day-long party in South Dakota, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, [3]with almost no masks or social distancing. Is there any doubt that this contributed to the Covid surge?

Yes, mask mandates are an infringement on a person’s freedom, but so are speed limits, zoning laws, building codes, and food and drug laws. But all of these things are part of the price we have to pay if we want to live together safely.

John Stuart Mill wrote that liberty means “doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow, without impediment from our fellow creatures, as long as what we do does not harm them even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse or wrong” (emphasis added).

The guy who won’t wear a mask thinks he is saying: “I’m a big strong guy; I’m not afraid of a virus. I might get sick for a few days but I’ll recover.” What he is actually saying is: “I’m a selfish guy. I don’t care if I spread the virus to a bunch of others even if some of them might die.”

(Rev.) David X. Stump
Jersey City, N.J.

To the Editor:

There’s a Word for Why We Wear Masks, and Liberals Should Say It[4],” by Michael Tomasky (Op-Ed, nytimes.com, Oct. 17), is on target. He’s addressing conservatives’ use of the word “freedom.” Liberals need to start talking about freedom, too, because the word really does mean two different things, depending on who’s talking.

For conservatives, freedom is the right to carry a gun, anyplace, anytime. For liberals, freedom is not having to worry about getting shot. For conservatives, freedom is not having to have health care unless you decide that you want to pay for it. For liberals, freedom is having health care, so that disease is far less likely to take our life savings or our lives. Those are just two examples; there are many more.

Conservative freedoms seem to be about walking on a high wire, with no net if people lose their footing. Liberal freedoms are a baseline of protections that give people fewer dangers and more choices about how they live their lives.

I know which freedom I want. Mr. Tomasky is right. The liberals need to talk about it.

Connie Howard
Palo Alto, Calif.

To the Editor:

There are, of course, millions of Americans who say they are “pro life,” believe that life begins at conception and don’t believe that a woman has a right to choose. Many of these same people refuse a mask mandate that saves lives, because it violates their right to choose.

Lawrence Levy
Los Angeles

To the Editor:

As a physician I see that signs in stores, pronouncements from public health officials and news coverage are focused almost entirely on mask wearing and no longer stress handwashing. This is a fatal public health failure.

Respiratory disease precautions involve both masks and handwashing! A restaurant worker who is not sick and wearing gloves receives a credit card from a person with the virus. That person processes the credit card but does not wash hands or gloves, then proceeds to contaminate the next card, then contaminates the menus, water glasses, the ketchup. Going from table to table it’s possible to infect many other people.

Cleanse your hands when touching anything another person has recently touched. Wash hands or gloves between every single customer. We are well on our way to another full-blown pandemic, with thousands more dying each day. Public health authorities are asleep at the switch in terms of handwashing. Wake up!

Thomas F. Kline
Raleigh, N.C.

To the Editor:

Re “Children Feel as Empty as the Fields They Used to Roam[5],” by Kurt Streeter (Sports of The Times, Oct. 12):

The decline in youth participation in sports stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic is troubling, given what we know about the physical and mental health benefits of playing sports. It’s especially disappointing to me, an Olympic swimmer, that the virus forced pool closings, as it affected not only children training to be competitive swimmers, but also the safety of all children.

Pools provide access to lifesaving resources year-round, like swim lessons, which can reduce a child’s risk of drowning by nearly 90 percent. This is notable, considering that drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children 1 to 4 years old, with swimming-pool deaths of African-American children 5 to 19 years old occurring at a rate more than five times that of Caucasian children.

This critical skill can be mastered safely, as there is no evidence that Covid-19 is transmitted through chlorinated water. We need to get children back into sports and keep them safe; keeping pools open is a good way to start.

Cullen Jones
Colorado Springs
The writer is a four-time Olympic medalist and the first Black American swimmer to hold a world record (in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay).

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