Thousands of medical and public health experts have signed on to a declaration calling for an end to lockdown policies in favor of a more targeted approach to combatting the coronavirus pandemic.
Harvard University professor Dr. Martin Kulldorff, Oxford University epidemiologist Dr. Sunetra Gupta, and Stanford University physician and epidemiologist Dr. Jay Bhattacharya wrote and published “The Great Barrington Declaration” on Sunday. It has since drawn tens of thousands of signatories.
By Wednesday morning, nearly 3,200 medical and public health scientists, nearly 4,800 medical practitioners, and over 73,100 others had signed onto the declaration. The declaration comes as some elected officials in the U.S., such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, are cracking down again on their states with renewed lockdown measures.
“As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection,” the declaration begins.
“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings, and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice,” it continues.
The doctors say that the current approach to fighting the pandemic — locking down wide swaths of the economy and barring people from gathering in places such as schools and churches — “will cause irreparable damage” if continued until a vaccine is readily available to the public.
Instead, the doctors recommend a targeted approach that protects high-risk populations, such as the elderly and those with co-morbidities. The doctors also point out that for many people, especially the young, “COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.”
The doctors endorse the same strategy followed by Sweden’s government in fighting the virus, known as herd immunity. As more people from less at-risk populations get the virus and build up an immunity, the threat of the virus to society at large falls.
“As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls,” the declaration says. “We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.”
The doctors recommend special protections be put in place for people that live in nursing homes, for example. Staff at such facilities should have immunity to the disease and rotating staff should be done as little as possible.
The vast majority of people should be “be allowed to resume life as normal,” the doctors say.
“Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home,” the declaration says. “Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.”