The dark underbelly of the first Thanksgiving

Nick Gier

We should all be grateful to microbiologist Doug Call for his superb critique (His View: Oct. 21) of the Great Barrington Declaration with its call for building “herd immunity” against the coronavirus.

Chuck Pezeshki (His View: Oct. 10) encouraged us to sign the document, and even though he once ignorantly called it “herd mentality,” Trump says that this is the answer to the raging pandemic. Thankfully, our Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams and thousands of doctors around the world have strongly rejected this proposal.

The only thing “great” about this declaration is the number of deaths that would result from reaching herd immunity, that is, letting people get infected willy-nilly until there is a natural vaccine effect. After reaching this point, Doug Call’s prediction is that 1.5 million Americans would have died unnecessarily, while Emory University’s Dr. Marybeth Sexton’s estimate is over 2 million.

In the history of epidemics herd immunity has not ever been achieved without a vaccine. But even then, we need a flu shot every year to boast our antibody protection. Most studies have shown that antibodies against the coronavirus last far less than that. A study of 365,000 Britons who had tested positive showed that 27 percent had lost their antibody protection in 12 weeks.

Pezeshki claims that COVID-19 is seasonal just like the flu, but evidence shows that this is not the case. Countries right on China’s doorstep, ranging from subtropical Singapore to cold winter South Korea, China and Japan have beaten the virus by mass testing, contact tracing and mask wearing. Mask wearing is ubiquitous among East Asians, and pre-COVID-19, they always wore face coverings during flu season.

Against the seasonal theory is the fact that the new outbreaks in Europe are concentrated in southern countries such as France, Spain, Greece and Italy. The big spike in cases in the Dakotas is not due to colder weather, but it’s because of Trump-inspired rejection of CDC guidelines.

Based on cell phone and GPS data, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota was responsible for 267,000 new cases. Sunny Texas has now reported the highest number of new cases in the nation. In very few countries south of the border have infections diminished even as they approach winter.

A University of Kansas study showed that far more cases occurred in the state’s counties without mask mandates. Of the 20 counties with the most cases per capita, 14 do not require face coverings.

Mask mandated Minnesota has half the cases as does North Dakota with no requirement. Call sent me the results of his analysis of the 50 states, and the mask mandated states had nearly half the number of cases per 100,000.

A mask requirement in Michigan has resulted in 75 percent fewer infections than in North Dakota. South Dakota now has an alarming 50 percent virus positivity rate, and Idaho stands at 36 percent. The northern state of New York has a 1.54 percent infection rate.

No-mandate Idaho has five times more cases per capita than mandated Washington and Oregon. No-mandate Nez Perce County has an infection rate of 65 per capita, but requiring masks in the Latah county seat Moscow has resulted in half that number.

The alarming increase in child cases (now more than 854,000 with 122 dead) was seasonal only because of the premature opening of many states and then the beginning of school, which by a partial count has resulted in 22,485 cases and 59 deaths. The recent uptick in cases on campus (so far 217,269 cases and 79 deaths) is seasonal only because students have returned, and far too many have flaunted public health directives.

A study referenced by Forbes (Sept. 17) surveyed 144 locations around the world, collected data about temperatures, humidity and latitude, and the result was that “the virus didn’t depend on temperature but rather the public health measures such as social distancing and school closures.”

I’m predicting that the blue wave that started on Tuesday will wipe out the herd mentality of Trump’s supporters.

Nick Gier is professor emeritus at the University of Idaho. Read all his columns at, and search “coronavirus” for these specific articles. Email him at

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