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the coronavirus crisis

Pandemic adviser with no epidemiology background reportedly pushes White House to adopt herd immunity strategy

Health officials are alarmed as a pandemic adviser pushes the White House to adopt Sweden's controversial herd immunity strategy, The Washington Post reports.

Neuroradiologist Scott Atlas, a top medical adviser to President Trump, has urged the White House to implement a pandemic strategy of trying to protect vulnerable groups while letting COVID-19 spread through most of the country so that healthy people can build up immunity to the virus, modeling the way Sweden has responded to the coronavirus crisis, the report says.

A senior administration official described Atlas, who reportedly meets with Trump nearly every day, as the "anti-Dr. Fauci," though the Post notes he doesn't have a background in infectious diseases or epidemiology. He has reportedly clashed with members of the coronavirus task force including Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.

Health experts are highly concerned that the herd immunity idea is being discussed inside the White House, the report says, especially given that, according to a Post estimate, in the United States, it "may require 2.13 million deaths to reach a 65 percent threshold of herd immunity." Yet the Post reports, pointing to a recent testing gudeline change at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an example, that the Trump administration has "already begun to implement some policies along these lines."

"The administration faces some pretty serious hurdles in making this argument," New York University professor Paul Romer told the Post. "One is a lot of people will die, even if you can protect people in nursing homes. Once it's out in the community, we've seen over and over again, it ends up spreading everywhere." Read more at The Washington Post.