A “herd immunity” approach was repeatedly pushed on health officials by a top appointee of President Trump.
According to Politico, Paul Alexander wanted top health officials to adopt the strategy which would allow millions of Americans to contract the coronavirus with the intentions of combating the virus.
Internal emails were obtained by a House watchdog who then shared them with the news outlet.
A July 4 email shows Alexander, a then-science adviser, telling others at the Health and Human Services Department, “There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD.”
“Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle-aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected…” Alexander continued.
Then on July 24, Alexander sent an email to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, as well as Michael Caputo and either other senior officials saying, “[I]t may be that it will be best if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected” in order to get “natural immunity…natural exposure.”
Caputo, the HHS assistant secretary for public affairs, told Alexander to research his idea.
Alexander was in favor of colleges staying open as a means to his proposed strategy. Colleges would allow the novel virus to spread.
In a July 27 email to CDC Director Robert Redfield, Alexander wrote, “We essentially took off the battlefield the most potent weapon we had…younger healthy people, children, teens, young people who we needed to fastly [sic] infect themselves, spread it around, develop immunity, and help stop the spread.”
Trump appointed Caputo to the HHS in the spring of 2020. Caputo was placed to lead the health department’s communication efforts, but officials told the news outlet that Alexander’s suggestions likely had the White House’s support.
“It was understood that he spoke for Michael Caputo, who spoke for the White House,” said Kyle McGowan, a Trump appointee who was CDC chief of staff before leaving this summer. “That’s how they wanted it to be perceived.”
But Trump’s leading officials have denied their involvement with Alexander’s herd proposal. The herd immunity idea was touted by some conservatives, who wanted to use it as a tactic to help overcome the pandemic. The process would intentionally expose less vulnerable populations with the foal of re-opening the economy.
“Herd immunity is not the strategy of the U.S. government with regard to coronavirus,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar testified in a hearing before the House coronavirus subcommittee on October 2.
There’s been some conflicting reporting on Alexander’s end that questions his stance. For example, in a May 30 email, he acknowledged a draft statement issued by the CDC on the coronavirus and how it was disproportionately negatively impacting minorities by stating it was a “very accurate” statement. But he then warned the HHS and CDC communication teams that “in this election cycle that is the kind of statement coming from CDC that the media and Democrat [sic] antagonists will use against the president.” The problems were “due to decades of democrat neglect.”
That’s not the only conflicting email. On July 24, Alexander admitted that the White House’s plan to allow states to re-open and weaken their Covid-19 restrictions was aiding in the spike of cases.
“There is a rise in cases due to testing and also simultaneously due to the relaxing of restrictions, less social distancing. We always knew as you relax and open up, cases will rise.”
The revelations strongly suggest a conflicting opinion between the Trump administration and political appointees, including Alexander and other staff members in government health agencies.
On September 16, it was announced by the HHS that Alexander would be leaving. The department also released a statement saying his demands for herd immunity “absolutely did not” form the department’s strategy.
“Dr. Paul Alexander previously served as a temporary Senior Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and is no longer employed at the Department,” the spokesperson said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci and other public health experts have decried the idea of intentionally infected the lower-risk population, including younger and healthier Americans.
“We certainly are not wanting to wait back and just let people get infected so that you can develop herd immunity. That’s certainly not my approach,” Fauci said in September.
“So the bottom line is if it is more infectiouness [sic] now, the issue is who cares?” Alexander wrote on a July 3 email to the health department’s top communications officials. “If it is causing more cases in young, my word is who cares…as long as we make sensible decisions, and protect the elderely [sic] and nursing homes, we must go on with life….who cares if we test more and get more positive tests.”
“How can this be researched and proven true or false?” Caputo asked in response to one of Alexander’s email exchanges. In which Alexander responded with data that he obtained from various studies.
“I did not want to look like a nut ball and if as they think and as I think this may be true … several hard hit areas may have hit heard [sic] at 20% like NYC,” Alexander added. “[T] hat’s my argument….why not consider it?”
Since Alexander’s departure, the HHS has worked to disassociate itself from him. Before his leaving, several Trump appointees reported that he was often isolated during his stint with the HHS.
“His rants had zero impact on policy and communications,” a senior administration official insisted. “Caputo enabled him to opine, but people pushed back and it even got to a point where Caputo told him to stop sending the emails.”