President Donald Trump told Bob Woodward in a recorded interview that he wanted to downplay coronavirus. See what he told the public then and now.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump claimed Tuesday during a televised town hall that “herd mentality” could make the coronavirus “disappear” with or without a vaccine.
During a 90-minute town hall hosted by ABC News in the must win battleground of Pennsylvania, Trump defended his repeated assertion that the virus will eventually disappear even without a vaccine, citing what he called “herd mentality,” an apparent reference to “herd immunity.”
ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Trump whether the coronavirus “would go away without the vaccine?”
“Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it goes away –” Trump responded.
Stephanopoulos interjected: “–And many deaths.”
“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,” Trump said.
Herd immunity is the theory that the virus is eradicated only after a high percentage of the population is infected, limiting its ability to spread.
Herd mentality, also known as mob mentality, rather means people can be influenced by the “herd” to act in ways that are emotional, rather than rational.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, who is the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has said the “death toll would be enormous” if the country attempted herd immunity.
For COVID-19, doctors believe 60% to 80% of the population needs natural antibodies, or to be vaccinated, to achieve herd immunity.
The U.S. has reported more than 6.5 million confirmed cases. The number needed to achieve herd immunity is far more, as the U.S. population is 328.2 million.
The Washington Post calculated that nearly three million Americans would have to die for the U.S. to reach herd immunity without a vaccine.
As of Tuesday night, more than 195,000 deaths Americans have died, according to data from John Hopkins University.
The White House earlier in September denied the Trump administration has ever considered a policy of “herd immunity.”
“The herd immunity so-called theory was something made up in the fanciful minds of the media. That was never something that was ever considered here at the White House,” press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters during a White House Press briefing.
Trump also claimed Tuesday he believes “we’re rounding the corner” on the coronavirus.
However, many scientists and doctors, including Fauci, have strongly disagreed with that assertion, expressing concerns of the coronavirus mixing with flu season.
“If you’re talking about getting back to a degree of normality which resembles where we were prior to COVID, it’s going to be well into 2021, maybe even towards the end of 2021,” Fauci said recently.
Trump defended this thinking by naming former Stanford Neuroradiology Chief Dr. Scott Atlas.
Atlas has become a White House adviser on the coronavirus, and has publicly downplayed the virus. There were reports from The Washington Post that Atlas has been pushing herd immunity inside the White House, and Trump has been listening.
Andrew Bates, Director of Rapid Response for Democrat nominee Joe Biden’s campaign, tweeted: “This is the *current* PRESIDENT of the United States, whose charged with keeping the American people safe. This would literally mean millions of deaths.”
During the town hall, the president also repeatedly rejected the idea that he had downplayed the severity of the virus, despite recordings from Bob Woodward’s interviews in which he told the journalist he thought downplaying it would help avoid a panic.
Contributing: John Fritze, David Jackson USA TODAY
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