Americans are certainly ready for this coronavirus mess to be over with, and the recent successes of the national vaccination program has brought us ever closer to this reality. The light at the end of the tunnel is blinding us now, even if some, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, continue to inject some doom and gloom into the conversation.
In Texas, local leaders have even suggested that the state is nearing the all-important status of “herd immunity”, in which enough Texans will have COVID-19 antibodies to safely reopen the economy.
But not everyone seems to agree with the Lone Star State’s assessment.
A leading public health expert is swatting down a claim from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) that his state will soon reach herd immunity from the coronavirus.
“We absolutely are not declaring victory at this time. We remain very vigilant and guarded and proactive in our response, but there is simple math behind the reason why still we continue to have success,” Abbott said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding later that “very simply, it’s a whole lot more difficult for COVID-19 to be spreading to other people in the state of Texas.”
“I don’t know what herd immunity is, but when you add that to the people who have immunity, it looks like it could be very close to herd immunity,” Abbott added.
Here is where things get tricky, however.
But Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy who advised President Biden’s coronavirus team, cast doubt on Abbott’s estimation.
“There is no way on God’s green earth that Texas is anywhere even close to herd immunity,” Osterholm told The New York Times. “Look no further than Michigan and Minnesota, which have much higher rates of vaccination than Texas. And we’re already seeing widespread transmission.”
About 19 percent of the population in Texas is vaccinated, the Times estimated, while Michigan comes in at about 22 percent and Minnesota at 24.
Leading public health officials with the federal government have said upward of at least 60 percent of the total U.S. population will need to be vaccinated in order to reach nationwide herd immunity.
The epidemiologist even had a little snark when describing the Texas Governor’s statement.
“Anybody who will tell you exactly what the level of herd immunity is is also likely to want to sell you a bridge,” Osterholm said.
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