A Trump political appointee made his pitch for ‘herd immunity’ to combat the coronavirus through mass infection in crude terms that are now being revealed in unsealed government documents.
Paul Alexander was brought in as the ‘science adviser’ to a senior Health and Human Services official in spring and used his position to demand young people were infected in mass, locked up in colleges – and that Dr. Tony Fauci was silenced.
The Canadian researcher – an academic with a science, rather than medical degree – was apparently recruited for his views and used his perch to push for the controversial idea that infecting massive numbers of people would eventually lead to broad immunity.
The White House repeatedly denied it was pursuing ‘herd immunity,’ despite also elevating Dr. Scott Atlas to the Coronavirus Task Force after he used a series of Fox News appearances to push the idea. Atlas quit after the election.
Alexander articulated his plan – which involved millions of Americans getting the virus so that it would eventually run out of hosts and die off – in emails to another Trump appointee, Michael Caputo, a former assistant secretary at HHS.
‘Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected,’ he wrote, in stunning emails the House Oversight Committee’s coronavirus select subcommittee obtained and provided to Politico.
Defending the herd position, Alexander wrote in the July 4 memo to Caputo and others: ‘There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD.’
A July email to Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn along with other officials and Caputo described the theory.
‘[I]t may be that it will be best if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected.” This would allow them to get “natural immunity…natural exposure,” Alexander wrote.
A science advisor wrote Michael Caputo, a former assistant secretary at HHS now on medical leave, touting herd immunity, writing ‘we want them infected’
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Commissioner Robert Redfield fielded requests for changes to CDC reports from White House officials
Alexander also attacked Fauci in the emails, suggesting that he knew more than the veteran leader of the CDC’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
‘Stop Fauci from talking…he is confusing people… he flip flops the message too much… and the result is now he is not credible…’ he wrote.
‘I talk to lots of people and read the IT world. Others are… he is not.’
Alexander also sent an email at 1.57am on July 27 to Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, saying that college students should have been locked on campuses until Christmas instead of being sent home in March and April.
In a breathless message written with minimal punctuation, he suggested that it was a ‘mistake’ to have sent students home.
Instead they should have been forced to stay on campuses, other students who commuted loaded into them too, and kept there until long after Christmas.
The students who moved around the country when colleges largely closed or went virtual at Easter were, he claimed, the origin of the spike in the disease at the time.
‘Good night Dr. Redfield, I think it is the university student/college student in North America that seeded lots of the virus across the nations…why?’ he wrote.
‘Because just before easter break middle to late March (??), we locked schools down and after easter, we told parents that kids cant come back to school..we will debate that for years and I say it was wrong for soon after we figured out it were 75- 80 year olds with underlying medical conditions who were the prime targets of COVID virus.
‘Folk who would have died absent of COVID…people who are very ill ordinarily…
‘To me, now as I reflect, it may be the university students, a few million of them across the nation, that we had to lock down, even quarantine, and simultaneously locked down the elderly.’
The students, he wrote,’took this virus home to mommy/daddy who then infected granny.’
‘In a twisted way we need them all to go back to university, fast, and stay there come Nov/Dec…do not come home for this xmas 2020.’
The internal emails came even as the coronavirus task force was pleading with Americans to wear a mask and social distance to ‘stop the spread.’
Alexander has previously been identified as sending in changes for the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which catalogues national deaths.
Caputo, who has longstanding Trump ties and was a political appointee, brought Alexander, a Canadian researcher, on as his deputy.
Alexander earned a PhD in health research methodologies at McMaster University in Canada in 2015 and was a part-time assistant professor there.
First daughter Ivanka Trump offered suggestions on schools, the former chief of staff of the CDC told the New York Times
‘Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won,’ said Kyle McGowan, former chief of staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Top officials dealing with the pandemic weren’t able to brush off the emails. They understood Alexander to have pull. ‘It was understood that he spoke for Michael Caputo, who spoke for the White House,” former CDC chief of staff Kyle McGowan told the publication. ‘That’s how they wanted it to be perceived.’
HHS announced in September that Alexander was departing and that Caputo would go on leave after the made comments calling on allies to get ready for an armed insurrection.
Caputo then went on medical leave and a spokesman said he was being treated for cancer. He now tweets as ‘Cancer Slayer.’
Alexander appears to have followed him out the door.
The documents emerged on a day when when McGowan and another CDC colleague, Amanda Campbell, told the New York Times about White House officials involving themselves in critical health guidelines released to the public.
The two Republicans spoke openly about what they called the politicization of the CDC.
McGowan said he and CDC head Dr. Robert Redfield negotiated with OMB Director Russ Vought on distancing guidelines for restaurants.
Ivanka Trump weighed in with suggestions on schools. Former counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway provided editing comments on guidance for choirs and communion. Choirs were identified as early spreaders of the virus.
‘Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won,’ said McGowan.
‘What was so different, though, was the political involvement, not only from H.H.S. but then the White House, ultimately, that in so many ways hampered what our scientists were able to do,’ said Campbell.
Both previously worked for GOP Rep. Tom Price, who served as Trump’s first Secretary of Health and Human Services.