Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) is warning his state’s residents not to count on herd immunity for protection from the coronavirus.
Herd immunity is when a virus stops spreading after enough people have antibodies to protect against it, either from a vaccine or from becoming sick. Some ― particularly on the right ― have advocated for a rapid reopening of the economy to allow more people to get sick so the U.S. could quickly reach that level of immunity (although some scientists have warned that antibody protection from infection may not last).
But Reeves spelled out on Twitter what that would mean in reality and concluded with a blunt call for people to wear masks in public.
“I’ve listened to some people argue that the rapid spread of cases is a good thing, and we need to reach herd immunity in Mississippi and elsewhere to survive,” he wrote. “I’m not a health care expert by any means, but I am a math guy.”
Then, Reeves crunched the numbers. He noted that experts say herd immunity kicks in when 70 to 80 percent of the population has been infected, but started his hypothetical experiment from an optimistic scenario in which herd immunity took effect at 40 percent:
Reeves said the state had been seeing 700 to 900 new infections a day, with more than 1,000 new cases on its worst day. That had already led to a hospital system “stressed to the point of pain” and on the verge of being overwhelmed.
“To get to 40% infections, we’d need 3,187 new cases every day for a full year from today,” he said. “We would need to TRIPLE our worst day ― every day ― for a year.”
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