You’ve probably heard by now about the “Great Barrington Declaration,” which argues in favor of ending all lockdowns, fully reopening schools, and otherwise abandoning most efforts to prevent new COVID-19 infections except in “the vulnerable.” The goal, of course, is to let natural immunity develop in the population, as soon as possible and without waiting for vaccines.
MedPage Today had the opportunity to sit down with Johnny Fartpants, PhD, one of the declaration’s most prominent signers — at his insistence, in fact, because we’re recovering from COVID-19 ourselves and Fartpants was eager for the opportunity to become infected himself.
The following has been edited for clarity and because we didn’t like some of his answers.
MedPage Today: Let’s start with you telling us about yourself.
Thank you. Mind if I sit closer?
No, go ahead.
Well, first I’d like to dispel some misconceptions about me. I definitely am a real doctor — I worked very hard for that PhD in art history. Moreover, the criticism that I have no medical training is unfounded. My dissertation focused on the Tintoretto painting “St Roch Ministering to the Plague Victims,” so I am well versed in pandemic responses. Also, I belong to many Facebook groups related to vaccines, and I balance my checkbook in my head. Statements that I am unqualified to comment on public health matters are obviously pure calumny.
The Great Barrington document makes a great deal of the adverse impacts of current policies aimed at social distancing — “lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health” — as reasons to prefer fast spread of coronavirus infection. Yet data suggest that countries with the strictest infection control policies have had the fewest “excess deaths” — in some cases, fewer deaths than in normal years while keeping COVID-19 cases to very low levels.
They’ll get theirs eventually. And we are not New Zealand — we can’t subsist on kiwi fruit and whatever the hell else they eat there. We need our restaurants serving foot-tall burgers with bacon and cheese to packed crowds in order to survive as a democratic society. You see what happened in Michigan when people were deprived — it was like “Mad Max” meets “Fargo.”
One consequence of letting infections run rampant, even in low-risk populations, is that a percentage will become seriously ill. Your group hopes to achieve something like 200 million infections in the space of a few months, at a time when influenza will be circulating as well. With a hospitalization rate of 2% (as one calculator shows for an average white 35-year-old normal-weight man with no risk factors), that would bring 4 million people to the hospital.
Then we’d better not wait to start building more hospitals. Geez, it’s like I’m talking to Dr. Fauci here. Not that I ever have, he doesn’t answer my DMs or emails or phone calls. Because HE’S NOT INTERESTED IN THE TRUTH! [shouting]
And what about those who develop symptoms and thus can’t go to work? The declaration says they should stay home. That would be tens of millions of people. Surely that will hurt the economy.
They can work from home like I’ve been doing, thanks to the blinkered philistine pig-ignorance of the community college where I’m an adjunct. Those who can’t should get unemployment benefits at 100%, which I’m sure President Trump and his Republican friends in Congress will be eager to provide, just like they have been all year.
So, who are “the vulnerable” mentioned in the document? It mentions nursing home residents “by way of example” but offered no guidance on who else might be included. Others have estimated that it could include 30% or more of the population, given that obesity, diabetes, and other common ailments are substantial risk factors beyond age.
Like the old margarine commercial said, it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. It’s only natural that the sick and the weak don’t make it when the going gets tough. It’s chlorine for the gene pool, if you know what I mean. Darwin had a theory about this.
The declaration assumes that infection produces immunity, but that remains unknown. Antibody titers clearly decline with time. It’s true that only a few cases of reinfection have been documented, but with so many infections having few or no symptoms, and thus going undiagnosed, many current cases could well be the individuals’ second.
It’s important here to have faith. Do you believe in God?
I didn’t think so. The history of this planet is that infections induce immunity, the strong survive, and the weak get out of our way. The important thing is that I need to get a real university job so I can move out of my parents’ basement, they’re driving me crazy. They feel the same way. Maybe more so.
If a vaccine becomes available before you succeed in contracting a natural infection, will you take it?
Are you Bill Gates now? I guess you weren’t listening when I mentioned belonging to Facebook groups.