The anti-lockdown Great Barrington Declaration has become a campaign issue in at least one congressional race.
Rep. Sean Casten, Illinois Democrat, decried the document co-authored by epidemiologists at Harvard, Stanford and Oxford as a “heaping, stinking pile of junk science” after his Republican opponent touted it at a debate.
“It is a heaping, stinking pile of junk science, advocating that we isolate the sick and the elderly and pretend that COVID doesn’t affect young healthy people in the name of ‘restarting’ the economy and herd immunity,” Mr. Casten tweeted on Sunday.
His lengthy thread also declared: “The GBD advocates nothing more than killing Americans. That is pure, unadulterated evil.”
During the debate, Republican candidate Jeanne Ives cheered the declaration, which calls for using “focused protection” to isolate the elderly and vulnerable while opening up the rest of the society to “build up immunity to the virus through natural protection.”
“The Great Barrington approach that just came out, that great agreement, signed by well over 7,300 scientists and medical professionals, said that kids need to be back in schools, businesses need to be opened up,” said Ms. Ives, a former state legislator, at the debate televised by WGN9 in Chicago.
More than 32,000 public-health scientists and medical practitioners worldwide have signed the declaration as of Tuesday, according to the website, but Mr. Casten called it “irresponsible and deadly.”
“It advocates for the social isolation of our most vulnerable so that we can kill young people. Seriously,” tweeted Mr. Casten. “Exposing a greater % of people with lower % infection rates to COVID leads to more death. Because it’s not like young people are immune from COVID; they are just less susceptible.”
He also urged media outlets not to cover the declaration, tweeting: “To the media: do not give platforms to anyone who advocates this plan. Do not ‘both sides’ this. Ignore it. Shut it down. Real lives are in the balance.”
The Great Barrington petition has touched off intense debate over the herd immunity versus lockdown approach to stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus, as well as praise on the right and criticism on the left.
The declaration was signed at the end of an Oct. 1-4 summit sponsored by the free-market American Institute for Economic Research in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The institute’s Bastiat Society program partners with the Charles Koch Institute and other right-tilting and libertarian groups.
“Climate Science Denial Network Behind Great Barrington Declaration,” said the Byline Times headline on an Oct. 9 article by British journalist Nafeez Ahmed.
Critics have also pointed out that the declaration, which can be signed online, has some fake signatures. Mr. Ahmed said he was able to sign on as a “medical and public health scientist,” while the institute said it was working to weed out phonies.
“So you are engaged in fraud? Not ethical,” responded AIER editorial director Jeffrey A. Tucker on Twitter. “Actually admins have been beating back fraudsters from the beginning. It’s not easy to manage a website with millions [of] views ongoing, plus dealing with trolls.”
The declaration’s three lead signatories are Harvard professor of medicine Dr. Martin Kulldorf; Oxford epidemiologist Dr. Sunetra Gupta; and Stanford Medical School professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.
Older people and those with comorbidities are at the greatest risk of becoming severely ill from the novel coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“In general, your risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19 increases as you get older,” the CDC said in a Sept. 11 post. “In fact, 8 out of 10 COVID-19-related deaths reported in the United States have been among adults aged 65 years and older.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics, using data available Oct. 8 from 42 states and New York City, reported that children represented “0% to 0.23% of all COVID-19 deaths, and 16 states reported zero child deaths.”
“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children,” the academy said.