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Trump Holds Out for the Herd, Ignores Preciousness of Individual Lives

On TV last night with George Stephanopoulos, Donald Trump rambled something about coronavirus and herd immunity:

TRUMP: I’m not looking to be dishonest. I don’t want people to panic. And we are going to be OK. We’re going to be OK, and it is going away. And it’s probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines.

It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it’s going to go away a lot faster with it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It would go away without the vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it goes away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And many deaths.

TRUMP: And you’ll develop — you’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality. It’s going to be — it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.

But with a vaccine, I think it will go away very quickly.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ve got to take a quick break [“Trump’s ABC News Town Hall: Full Transcript,” ABC News, 2020.09.15].

Only Donald Trump would say we should rely on something like herd mentality to address a national crisis.

Trump skates over the key point inserted by the interviewer, that relying on herd immunity means he views over 100,000 preventable deaths as acceptable.

Kevin Woster meditates on how such thinking would have denied him the grace of five more years with his mom, had this coronavirus broken out after she, at age 81, was living a drastically altered but still happy and rich life after a heart attack in 1999:

My mom lived to see my son and daughter play basketball for O’Gorman. She lived to see them graduate and head for college. She met newborn great-grandchildren and was showered with attention by visiting nephews and nieces and their kids, and grandkids.

She continued to play a ragtime piano for all to enjoy up until the point where her dying heart simply couldn’t pump enough blood to keep her fingers dancing across the keys.

She lived a good life for more than five years. Not an easy life. Not a full life in the way she had known it before the heart attack. But good. Very good. Valuable beyond calculation, to her and to us [Kevin Woster, “Covid and the Herd: When Cold Numbers Deny the Precious,” SDPB: On the Other Hand, updated 2020.09.11].

There are macho men out there saying of coronavirus, “If I die, I die.” Such fatalistic pronouncements represent not personal strength but disregard for others. When you’re talking about a contagious disease, you can’t say “If I die, I die” in isolation; those words inherently mean, “If you die, you die.”And those words mean you don’t really give a darn about others:

That’s part of what we’re talking about when we talk about allowing herd immunity to lope on its own through the human herd and produce an “acceptable” death rate from COVID-19.

I’ve been thinking about what’s “acceptable” since I saw a report on a disturbing survey indicating that 57 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of survey respondents overall considered the U.S. death toll related to COVID-19 infections at the time — about 176,000 — as “acceptable.”

I have to think that unacceptable survey results came from a combined pathology: The Trump effect, a lack of empathy, and a level of hardened cynicism that diminishes the value of certain lives. The lives that some apparently consider to be second class are not the young and the strong and those free of serious pre-existing conditions that can lead to complications and death after contracting COVID-19 [Woster, 2020.09.11].

When Trump bleats herd, he’s not thinking about the individual lives that will be culled from the herd due to his inaction. Insulated by wealth and White House doctors from most harm (everyone who attended ABC’s event with Trump last night was tested for coronavirus), Trump can’t look past himself to envision the personal loss his approach to this national crisis threatens for millions of Americans in situations like the Wosters were twenty years ago.

Herd immunity is an epidemiological reality. But banking on herd immunity is reckless policy, indicating a lack of ambition, vision, and caring.

Related Reading: Ed Yong of The Atlantic meditates on the same poll Woster read:

…“It’s not the type of disaster that Americans specifically are used to dealing with,” says Samantha Montano of Massachusetts Maritime Academy, who studies disasters. “Famines and complex humanitarian crises are closer approximations.” Health experts are burning out. Long-haulers are struggling to find treatments or support. But many Americans are turning away from the pandemic. “People have stopped watching news about it as much, or talking to friends about it,” Redbird says. “I think we’re all exhausted.” Optimistically, this might mean that people are becoming less anxious and more resilient. More worryingly, it could also mean they are becoming inured to tragedy.

The most accurate model to date predicts that the U.S. will head into November with 220,000 confirmed deaths. More than 1,000 health-care workers have died. One in every 1,125 Black Americans has died, along with similarly disproportionate numbers of Indigenous people, Pacific Islanders, and Latinos. And yet, a recent poll found that 57 percent of Republican voters and 33 percent of independents think the number of deaths is acceptable. “In order for us to mobilize around a social problem, we all have to agree that it’s a problem,” Lori Peek says. “It’s shocking that we haven’t, because you really would have thought that with a pandemic it would be easy.” This is the final and perhaps most costly intuitive error …

The U.S. might stop treating the pandemic as the emergency that it is. Daily tragedy might become ambient noise. The desire for normality might render the unthinkable normal. Like poverty and racism, school shootings and police brutality, mass incarceration and sexual harassment, widespread extinctions and changing climate, COVID-19 might become yet another unacceptable thing that America comes to accept [Ed Yong, “America Is Trapped in a Pandemic Spiral,” The Atlantic, 2020.09.09].


  1. cibvet 2020-09-17

    I suspect “herd mentality” is to deny the fact that corona19 virus exists and that anyone has died from it. I have heard this moronic BS from trumpists, just never knew there was a name for it.

  2. Debbo 2020-09-17

    I think if Bumbling Bozo and his multiple daily crises and craziness were not in office, Americans’ reaction to Covid-19 deaths would be quite different. It’s not just the trump Cult effect, but the emotional weariness people feel.

  3. jerry 2020-09-17

    860,000 more unemployed this week..Winning!! Hey whatever happened to infrastructure week? Maybe build some safer roads.

    “WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to 860,000, a historically high figure that reflects economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak.

    Before the pandemic hit the economy, the number signing up for jobless aid had never exceeded 700,000 in a week, even in the depths of the 2007-2009 Great Recession. The Labor Department also said Thursday that 12.6 million are collecting traditional unemployment benefits, up from 1.7 million a year ago.”

    trump/republicans have finally beaten Obama at one thing, destroying the they’ve got that going for them.

  4. jerry 2020-09-17

    Looks like Dr. Redfield will have to leave the CDC, because trump knows more about medicine and science than scientists do. Why go to school and get a degree when you can just say you know more than those pesky eggheads that can take you to the moon and beyond. trump is a mentally ill old man that leads mentally ill followers.

  5. leslie 2020-09-17

    “In order for us to mobilize around a social problem, we all have to agree that it’s a problem,” Lori Peek says. “It’s shocking that we haven’t, because you really would have thought that with a pandemic it would be easy.”

    Early in the pandemic Rush Limbaugh and Fox News kept calling it a Democrat Hoax. Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro ect continue along these lines. So the public is confused. Misled. Intentionally. Maliciously. Malevolently. Right wing propaganda for decades is largely to blame for all our problems. Hate is the Keystone.

    FCC needs teeth.

  6. o 2020-09-17

    As I listen to President Trump speak about the virus and herd mentality [immunity – potato/potato] , I am reminded of his self-aggrandizing at the CDC: “Trump said doctors he’s come across as the administration tries to get a handle on the outbreak have been surprised about how much he knows about COVID-19. “Maybe I have a natural ability,” he said. “Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

  7. jerry 2020-09-17

    o, the guy is a genius with everything like Tinker Belle GNOem. Here is Tinker Belle GNOem in action.

    “The Department of Health reported 395 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, including 35 in Pennington County.

    The county now has 323 active cases, raising the overall total to 1,897. Across the state, 2,615 South Dakotans have an active case and 14,878 have recovered. The state has seen 17,686 total cases and 193 fatalities, with one new death reported Thursday.” Rapid City Journal 9.17.20

    So where does our little Tinker Belle GNOem go with this kind of news? Michigan of course, because those idiots there need more stupid. I felt a little breeze of relief when she left South Dakota airspace. GNOem is like a turd that won’t flush, just embarrasses.

  8. Mike Livingston 2020-09-17

    The O is the epitome of the center of the basketful, The rabid fire liar has about 35 million more where he-she comes from. I am not trying to b judgmental. the weariness we are all feeling at this point in time is by design, as it represents one of the greatest threats we will need to gird ourselves against in the coming days and lest we forget it will be here b4 we no it. Don’t panic and vote as soon as u can and try to contribute to the struggle to preserve OUR democracy. Apology’s for the textual deviations. Vote Vote Vote but only only once unless you r republcant in that case vote as often as der leader requests.

  9. o 2020-09-17

    FINALLY!!!! I have made it. I have been bot-flamed. Post after post hoping that some day to reach the attention of a Russian server farm, but when it finally happens . . . . just magical. Thank you, Mike Livingston, or as they say in your native tongue, 10001110 00110011 11110100 00110101.

  10. CraigSk 2020-09-18

    At the current rate of death COVID-19 is giving us, if we wait for herd immunity that will cause 7 million people to have died in just the United States. That’s a big number.

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