Even so, his view is actually a variation of that bad idea. It’s herd-immunity adjacent. Dr. Atlas would ignore the mostly healthy and focus only on highest risk groups, such as the old, the sick and those with chronic medical conditions, such as weakened immune systems.
This focus on the high-risk group is absolutely a great idea for problems like smoking, asthma, obesity and diabetes. Only those at risk need resources. We don’t close down schools because of childhood asthma.
Simply put: Kids are contagious. Teenagers are contagious. Young adults are contagious. Everyone with coronavirus may infect someone else. All the articles suggesting this or that age group does or does not have high amounts of virus and therefore is or isn’t contagious have gone in pointless circles. Covid-19 is a respiratory virus; all respiratory viruses are contagious regardless of age. The relative degree of contagiousness is one for the academics to duke out, not those trying to stop the pandemic.
In pushing his hodge-podge, Atlas overlooks a very important fact: The debate about the role children play in spreading contagious diseases was settled long ago. Infants are vaccinated against influenza for two very different reasons. Those younger than two have higher rates of severe disease, and vaccines help them stay alive.
But at the societal level, we give influenza vaccine because it is more efficient than vaccinating the entire adult population — many of whom, are the elderly and the sick, and if vaccinated would probably not mount a protective response to a vaccine.
When a disease, like Covid-19, has no vaccine or surefire treatment, preventing spread among children and teenagers is essential because so many younger people don’t develop symptoms. As they happily go about their business, they can unwittingly spread the virus, mostly to their peers, but also to Mom or Dad or the older guy selling them the microbrew.
Indeed, it is likely that the best use of the Covid-19 vaccine will be to give it first to the young, whose immune systems will respond extremely well. This will stop them from being pandemic spreaders. As with influenza vaccine, it is likely that many of those in greatest need of protection — the elderly — will have a sluggish and sub-optimal response. This would be a “smart, prioritized” strategy.
Dr. Atlas is wearing the mantle of a “common sense” scientist who has been in the game for decades. He made his mark as an expert in the radiology in MRI scanning of the brain and spine. He proudly declares that he is all about the evidence. But in his dismissal of the current approach, he is overlooking the outcome of the tragic experiment of nature that has happened over the past six months. We already know how to control the pandemic. And we also know what sounds good but simply does not work.
We have seen directly that the basic mask-wearing, social distancing and test-and-track strategies work in cities like New York and countries like South Korea and Germany, and professional sports teams worldwide.