By Sam Franklin (a/k/a Kelley Williams, Jr.)
Ben: “OK, let’s get right to it. What did you think of the governor’s executive order and quote in the newspaper?”
Sam: “First of all, I think the governor is doing an admirable job under difficult circumstances. Can you imagine having to deal with all this – corona, state flag, protests – not to mention the February flood everyone seems to have forgotten – within a few months of being sworn in? I actually think he has handled himself, and represented the state, quite well.
“Second, the paper may have quoted the Governor accurately and captured his sentiments. Or it may not have. It wouldn’t be the first time. A missed word here or phrase there can change the entire meaning. It happened to me recently.
“Third, I agree with the governor that wearing masks is a whole lot better than another shutdown, which helps no one and hurts almost everyone. The LA and San Diego school districts are doing a grave disservice to their students (and I’m shocked, shocked that the teachers unions there lobbied hard against re-opening), so if wearing masks is what is required to keep schools and businesses open, then we should wear masks.”
Ben: “Sounds like you’ve seen the light, realize masks and a vaccine are the only thing that will stop the spread of COVID, and herd immunity is a pipe dream.”
Sam: “Let’s not get carried away.”
Ben: “Why don’t you just admit you’re in the minority and are wrong?”
Sam: “I may be wrong. But that would have nothing to do with being in the minority. Never confuse those two.”
Ben: “Point taken. But give me some justification for your position other than obstinance.”
Sam: “Let me start by asking you a question. Is this coronavirus 100 percent contagious? That is, will every single person on the planet catch it?”
Ben: “Um, no. Everyone on the planet, of course not.”
Sam: “Why not?”
Ben: “Because some people won’t be exposed.”
Sam: “Possibly. Why else? What about families or neighbors where some catch it but some don’t?”
Ben: “Some people take more precautions – wear masks, wash their hands, etc. – and some are just not as susceptible I guess.”
Sam: “Bingo. To rephrase that, some people, for reasons we don’t quite understand, have natural immunity. In fact, the vast majority of us have natural immunity. Consider the Diamond Princess, as perfect a test case as you’ll ever get. For one month over 3,000 passengers and crew were confined to this petri dish and not allowed to disembark while SARS-Cov-2 made the rounds. Yet 83 percent never contracted the disease (and of the 17 percent who did, 58 percent were asymptomatic). How is that possible? How is it possible that 83 percent never got it unless they were naturally immune? Let me give you an even more fascinating example from 1918, which Gina Kolata relates in her marvelous book FLU. As you no doubt know, the 1918 influenza epidemic was the mother of all infectious diseases. It killed young and old indiscriminately, and COVID-19 doesn’t even register as a blip on the radar in comparison. Desperate for answers, Navy doctors in Boston designed a study to help understand what caused the disease to spread.
“The subjects were an unfortunate group of 62 sailors who were imprisoned for crimes committed while in the service. If they agreed to participate in the study, their military records would be wiped clean. Every last sailor agreed, which may say more about life in a military jail than about their rational decision-making abilities. The Naval doctors transferred their subjects to Gallops Island in Boston Harbor and then did their best to give each man the flu. They began by collecting mucus from the noses and throats of men already desperately ill and spraying the mucus into the noses and throats of the subjects. They dropped a batch into the eyes of some. One volunteer had a swab directly from a sick man’s nose inserted into his own nose. Doctors drew blood from one sick man and injected it directly into a healthy one.
To simulate reality, 10 subjects were taken to a hospital where patients were dying from the disease. Each healthy man was instructed to approach a sick man on his cot, engage him in conversation, and inhale the sick man’s putrid breath. The sick man was told to exhale deeply and to cough five times into the volunteer’s face. Each volunteer did this with 10 different patients. Of these 62 poor sailors, how many do you think got the flu?
Ben: “I’m feeling sick just thinking about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if every single one of them did, but I’ll say 50 to be conservative.”
Sam: “Try goose egg.”
Sam: “Not a single healthy sailor got sick. Who knows why? The point is the human body is an amazing machine. It has yet to be equaled and has tens of thousands of years’ experience fighting off disease. So if somewhere in the vicinity of 80 percent+ of us have natural immunity to this particular coronavirus – and remember, we’ve all had and recovered from various other coronaviruses throughout our lifetimes – then the delta to achieve true herd immunity is only about 10-15 percent.”
Ben: “So you’re saying let people get sick?”
Sam: “Not at all. If people can stay healthy that’s great, and the elderly and those with other respiratory diseases already should be especially careful. (In hindsight, if policy makers worldwide had understood not to allow infected patients or caregivers to go back to nursing homes, the story of COVID-19 would be dramatically different.) What I am saying is that some things are beyond our control, but once 10-15 percent of the population contracts the disease and recovers – and for young healthy people this may be akin to a bout with flu or mono – then COVID-19 will have run its course and be a memory.”
Kelley Williams, Jr. is a Northsider.