Doctors at Stanford University are at the forefront of a global movement of health experts who are criticizing lockdowns to control COVID-19 and say schools and businesses should reopen, but with a focus on protecting the elderly and infirm who are most vulnerable to the virus.
Called the Great Barrington Declaration after the western Massachusetts town where it was hatched this month at an economic policy think tank, their statement of purpose is the handiwork of three principal drafters who include Stanford medical professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.
“As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies,” the declaration states. “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.”
Though the arguments are not new, with more than 18,000 medical, science and public health practitioners among its more than 191,000 worldwide online signatories, it represents the largest public break among health experts from their peers’ prevailing support for lockdowns since the pandemic began early this year.
But the declaration has drawn fire from other doctors and public health officials who say lifting lockdowns will only invite a new wave of COVID-19 infections and fatalities from the deadly virus. More than 7.6 million people in the United States have contracted the virus, and 213,000 people have died.