Why did politicians ever lockdown society in the first place? Can we all agree that the stated purpose was to “flatten the curve” so our hospital system could handle the inevitable COVID-19 patients who needed care? At that point, at least, back in early March, people were behaving rationally. They accepted that you can’t eradicate a virus, so let’s postpone things enough to handle it. The fact is, we have done that, and so much more. The headlines are filled with dire warnings of a “second wave” and trigger-happy Governors are rolling back regulations to try to stem the tide of new cases. But, is any of it actually true and should we all be worried? No, it’s not a second wave. The COVID-19 virus is on its final legs, and while I have filled this post with graphs to prove everything I just said, this is really the only graph you need to see, it’s the CDC’s data, over time, of deaths from COVID-19 here in the U.S., and the trend line is unmistakable:
If virologists were driving policy about COVID-19 rather than public health officials, we’d all be Sweden right now, which means life would effectively be back to normal. The only thing our lockdowns have done at this point is prolong the agony a little bit, and encouraged Governors to make up more useless rules. Sweden’s health minister understood that the only chance to beat COVID-19 was to get the Swedish population to a Herd Immunity Threshold against COVID-19, and that’s exactly what they have done, so let me start there.
The Herd Immunity Threshold (“HIT”) for COVID-19 is between 10-20%
This fact gets less press than any other. Most people understand the basic concept of herd immunity and the math behind it. In the early days, some public health officials speculated that COVID-19’s HIT was 70%. Obviously, the difference between a HIT of 70% and a HIT of 10-20% is dramatic, and the lower the HIT, the quicker a virus will burn out as it loses the ability to infect more people, which is exactly what COVID-19 is doing everywhere, including the U.S, which is why the death curve above looks the way it looks. Scientists from Oxford, Virginia Tech, and the Liverpool school of Tropical Medicine, all recently explained the HIT of COVID-19 in this paper:
We searched the literature for estimates of individual variation in propensity to acquire or transmit COVID-19 or other infectious diseases and overlaid the findings as vertical lines in Figure 3. Most CV estimates are comprised between 2 and 4, a range where naturally acquired immunity to SARS-CoV-2 may place populations over the herd immunity threshold once as few as 10-20% of its individuals are immune.
Calculations from this study of data in Stockholm showed a HIT of 17%, and if you really love data check out this great essay by Brown Professor Dr. Andrew Bostom titled, COVID-19 ‘herd immunity’ without vaccination? Teaching modern vaccine dogma old tricks. I’m going to share his summary with you, because it’s so good:
Naturally acquired herd immunity to COVID-19 combined with earnest protection of the vulnerable elderly — especially nursing home and assisted living facility residents — is an eminently reasonable and practical alternative to the dubious panacea of mass compulsory vaccination against the virus. This strategy was successfully implemented in Malmo, Sweden, which had few COVID-19 deaths by assiduously protecting its elder care homes, while “schools remained open, residents carried on drinking in bars and cafes, and the doors of hairdressers and gyms were open throughout.”
One of the most vocal members of the scientific community discussing COVID-19’s HIT is Stanford’s Nobel-laureate Dr. Michael Levitt. Back on May 4, he gave this great interview to the Stanford Daily where he advocated for Sweden’s approach of letting COVID-19 spread naturally through the community until you arrive at HIT. He stated:
If Sweden stops at about 5,000 or 6,000 deaths, we will know that they’ve reached herd immunity, and we didn’t need to do any kind of lockdown. My own feeling is that it will probably stop because of herd immunity. COVID is serious, it’s at least a serious flu. But it’s not going to destroy humanity as people thought.
Guess what? That’s exactly what happened. As of today, 7 weeks after his prediction, Sweden has 5,280 deaths. In this graph, you can see that deaths in Sweden PEAKED when the HIT was halfway to its peak (roughly 7.3%) and by the time the virus hit 14% it was nearly extinguished. (Shoutout to Gummi Bear on Twitter, a scientist who makes great graphs.)
How could Dr. Levitt have predicted the death range for Sweden so perfectly 7 weeks ago? Because he had a pretty solid idea of what the HIT would be. (If you’d like to further geek-out on HIT, check out: Why herd immunity to COVID-19 is reached much earlier than thought.) …