Proposal to hasten herd immunity to the coronavirus grabs White House attention but appalls top scientists

When asked for comment, HHS referred a reporter to Azar’s subsequent Twitter statement about the meeting: “We heard strong reinforcement of the Trump Administration’s strategy of aggressively protecting the vulnerable while opening schools and the workplace.”

A senior administration official told reporters in a background briefing call Monday that the proposed strategy — which has been denounced by other infectious-disease experts and has been called “fringe” and “dangerous” by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins — supports what has been Trump’s policy for months.

“We’re not endorsing a plan. The plan is endorsing what the president’s policy has been for months. The president’s policy — protect the vulnerable, prevent hospital overcrowding, and open schools and businesses — and he’s been very clear on that,” the official said.

“Everybody knows that 200,000 people died. That’s extremely serious and tragic. But on the other hand, I don’t think society has to be paralyzed, and we know the harms of confining people to their homes,” the official added.

Trump has long chafed at the economic damage from shutdowns imposed to control the pandemic, and has repeatedly pushed states to reopen, at one point threatening to withhold federal funding from states that did not open schools. After he contracted the virus and developed symptoms of covid-19 serious enough to require hospitalization, Trump still urged the public, “Don’t be afraid of Covid.”

In pushing his agenda, Trump has steadily drifted away from the counsel of his own government’s top doctors, such as White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx and Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Into that void has stepped Atlas, who has relied on the maverick scientists to bolster his in-house arguments. At a recent White House news briefing, he cited them by name.

The three scientists pushing the strategy, which they call Focused Protection, have distinguished academic appointments. Martin Kulldorff is an epidemiologist at Harvard University. Sunetra Gupta is an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. Jay Bhattacharya is a physician and epidemiologist at Stanford Medical School.

They have codified their argument in the form of a document posted online that called itself the Great Barrington Declaration, named after the town in Massachusetts where it was unveiled on Oct. 4 in a ceremony at a libertarian think tank.

The authors argue that their approach would decrease the undesirable public health effects of restrictions and closures, which disproportionately affect lower-income people. The declaration does not mention wearing masks, engaging in social distancing, avoiding crowds and indoor environments, or any of the other recommendations pushed by most government and scientific experts.

The authors contend that permitting the virus to spread naturally among young people — who are much less likely than their elders to have a severe outcome — will shorten the pandemic by hastening the arrival of herd immunity, the point at which there’s enough immunity in the general population to prevent the virus from spreading at epidemic rates.

“The most compassionate approach that

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Proposal to hasten herd immunity grabs White House attention, appalls top scientists

WASHINGTON — Maverick scientists who call for allowing the coronavirus to spread freely at “natural” rates among healthy young people while keeping most aspects of the economy up and running have found an audience inside the White House and at least one state capitol.

The scientists met last week with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who has emerged as an influential adviser to President Donald Trump on the pandemic.

When asked for comment, HHS referred a reporter to Azar’s subsequent Twitter statement about the meeting: “We heard strong reinforcement of the Trump Administration’s strategy of aggressively protecting the vulnerable while opening schools and the workplace.”

A senior administration official told reporters in a background briefing call Monday that the proposed strategy — which has been denounced by other infectious-disease experts and has been called “fringe” and “dangerous” by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins — supports what has been Trump’s policy for months.

“We’re not endorsing a plan. The plan is endorsing what the president’s policy has been for months. The president’s policy — protect the vulnerable, prevent hospital overcrowding, and open schools and businesses — and he’s been very clear on that,” the official said.

“Everybody knows that 200,000 people died. That’s extremely serious and tragic. But on the other hand, I don’t think society has to be paralyzed, and we know the harms of confining people to their homes,” the official added.

Trump has long chafed at the economic damage from shutdowns imposed to control the pandemic, and has repeatedly pushed states to reopen, at one point threatening to withhold federal funding from states that did not open schools. After he contracted the virus and developed symptoms of COVID-19 serious enough to require hospitalization, Trump tweeted, “Don’t be afraid of COVID.”

In pushing his agenda, Trump has steadily drifted away from the counsel of his own government’s top doctors, such as White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Into that void has stepped Atlas, who has relied on the maverick scientists to bolster his in-house arguments. At a recent White House news briefing, he cited them by name.

The three scientists pushing the strategy, which they call focused protection, have distinguished academic appointments. Martin Kulldorff is an epidemiologist at Harvard University. Sunetra Gupta is an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. Jay Bhattacharya is a physician and epidemiologist at Stanford University’s medical school.

They have codified their argument in the form of a document posted online that called itself the Great Barrington Declaration, named after the town in Massachusetts where it was unveiled on Oct. 4 in a ceremony at a libertarian think tank.

The authors say their approach would decrease the undesirable public health effects of restrictions and closures, which disproportionately affect lower-income people. The declaration does not mention wearing masks, engaging in social distancing, avoiding crowds and indoor environments, or any of the other

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Small quarters means more attention to kitchen essentials

We’ve been gearing up for our fall RV trip and for the resident cook that means getting the kitchen dialed in.

Take it away, Chef Leslie!

One of the biggest shocks about downsizing from a full kitchen to a tiny setup was the large number of tools I had to leave on the shelf back at home. I thought I couldn’t live without them.

Guess what? I’ve adapted. Less isn’t exactly more, but it’s just fine to streamline what’s in the single cupboard and the lone drawer where the cooking essentials live. These are the tools I can’t do without in our RV.

Cast iron skillet: I’ve worn out plenty of non-stick pots and pans over the years, both cheap and spendy, but when it comes to durability, nothing tops my trusty cast iron skillet. This MVP sears salmon fillets and braises chicken in wine. It’s key in creating fluffy pancakes and eggs fried sunny-side up, crispy around the edges. I’ve even baked cakes in it. Our special bond goes back more than 25 years when I found it at a second-hand shop on the Oregon Coast. Ah, sweet memories.

Staying sharp: There’s a butcher block filled with knives back in my full kitchen, but the go-to slice-and-dicer is an eight-inch chef’s knife, followed by a paring knife. Those are no good, though, unless they’re sharp. Enter the amazing Wüsthof hand-held sharpener. It’s a bit bulky, so it’s tucked under the couch until it’s needed. I take a couple of passes with a dull knife through this affordable gizmo and I’m back in action.

More than a peeler: Speaking of sharp, my trusty vegetable peeler has been drafted into duty far beyond scraping carrots clean. I put it to good use making zoodles, ribbons of veggies like summer squash standing in for noodles. When it shaves Parmesan over a Caesar salad and turns citrus peels into flavor-packed zest, that peeler is almost like a hand-held food processor.

Magnifique coffee press: Someone in our traveling twosome cannot function without the morning caffeine kickstarter, so we invested in a top-notch coffee maker. The Espro P7 has two built-in microfilters to create a smooth cuppa. The double-sided stainless carafe helps keep it hot until that certain somebody’s eyes are wide open and his adventuring spirit wonders: “What trail do you want to explore today?”

Electric kettle: Ever since a long-ago trip to England, we’ve been fans of heating water in a kettle that’s plugged in. Don’t forget to occasionally descale the kettle with a vinegar solution, especially after staying in a place with hard water.

It’s the champ: Absolutely couldn’t be happier than when cooking outdoors on the excellent George Foreman Smokeless Grill. Yes, I love the flavor imparted by charcoal and wood chips, but this grill offers the ability to control the heat. I’ve made neighbors jealous frying bacon, burgers and chops, the savory fragrance perfuming the air. It also puts a pretty char on veggies and has even been pressed into

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