Ex-CDC Chief Frieden: COVID-19 --Protect vulnerable, let virus spread to the young? Why it's a terrible plan

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There's a mistaken and dangerous idea circulating about the spread of COVID-19.
There's a mistaken and dangerous idea spreading like a virus – that we can let COVID spread among young, healthy people as long as we protect the vulnerable.

The idea is appealing but it would backfire. In fact, following this advice would lead to more Americans being killed by COVID than were killed in all the wars of the 20th Century.

DR. TOM FRIEDEN: WEARING A MASK CAN HELP STOP COVID AND GET OUR JOBS BACK

Here's why:

Although younger people rarely get seriously ill from COVID, they sometimes do. Think of the tragic death of the 28-year-old obstetrician infected in the hospital she delivered babies in.

What starts in children and young adults doesn't stay with them. No age group is an island. Young people have parents and grandparents. They shop and work. When they interact with others, they spread infection – even if they feel perfectly fine. That's exactly what we've seen in the U.S.: infections in younger adults have been followed 1-2 weeks later by hospitalizations of older people, and, weeks after that, by increases in deaths.

We don't know if immunity will be strong or long-lasting. Reinfection with COVID a second time is possible, although it seems to be rare. Even if lots of young people get infected, they will not be a wall to protect the rest of us.

The vulnerable are not a small group. One in five Americans is over age 60, and more than 95% percent of older people don't live in nursing homes, where policies can reduce risk of spread. And half or more of all adults have health problems that increase their risk of death from COVID.

And the bottom line: Getting enough…
Tom Frieden
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