Trump plan for millions of Americans: ‘We want them infected’
The latest round of mass infection and death is linked to a conscious policy of 'herd immunity' advocated by Trump administration officials. The toll now being felt rivals the worst months of the spring. Here, workers move bodies to a refrigerated truck from the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home in the Brooklyn borough of New York, April 29, 2020. | Craig Ruttle / AP

With more than 300,000 Americans dead, it was revealed Wednesday, with the release of a batch of previously secret emails, that the current death and infection rates may at least partially be the result of Trump administration policy consciously planned in July. Many of the emails and documents were released in a report last night by Rep. Jim Clyburn, chair of the House coronavirus subcommittee.

The emails indicate, in fact, that the plan Trump pushed in July was for even more infection and death than we have already suffered.

Trump, through a top official he installed, pressured the Department of Health and Human Services to pursue a policy of getting as many Americans as possible infected with the coronavirus so “herd immunity” could be achieved. Prior to the release of the emails last night, the Trump administration had denied that this was his policy. Even with these revelations, HHS continues to claim herd immunity has never been its official approach.

The push for letting infection run rampant appears to have come from Trump himself, though, and was sent down through an emissary, Paul Alexander, to HHS, the Centers for Disease Control, and other agencies.

Despite there never being a public announcement that the government was pursuing herd immunity, the rapid reopening of several Republican-governed states in the summer before the infection curve was flattened shows that it was de facto policy. It can be reasonably estimated that the result has been at least tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths and ultimately could mean hundreds of thousands more deaths in America.

The first Trump administration orders that there be a policy of infecting as many people as possible were emailed to HHS in July. The emails, obtained by a House watchdog and given to Politico, show that it was the Trump administration’s plan to purposefully have children included in the millions of Americans to be infected with the coronavirus.

“There is no other way, we need to establish herd [immunity], and it only comes about allowing the non-high-risk groups to expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD,” Alexander, Trump’s pick to advise health officials in implementing the policy, wrote to seven top HHS senior officials on July 4.

“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…” Alexander wrote on behalf of Trump.

“[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” in order to get “natural immunity…natural exposure,” the president’s emissary wrote on July 24 to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, his own boss HHS assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo, and eight other senior officials. Caputo subsequently asked Alexander to research the idea, according to emails in the possession of Clyburn’s House coronavirus subcommittee.

Trump’s insistence that colleges and college sports remain open was part of the plan to force COVID-19 infections to rapidly spread. Right-wing lunatics demanding the freedom to wear no masks and right-wing Republican officials across the country played right into Trump’s hands as they refused to protect their own people from infection.

Many colleges and sports programs did not ultimately reopen as Trump wanted, but many other protective public health measures were reversed or never implemented. One email to CDC director Robert Redfield from Alexander complained that young people were not being infected fast enough. “We essentially took off the battlefield the most potent weapon we had…younger healthy people, children, teens, young people who we needed to fastly [sic] infect themselves, spread it around, develop immunity, and help stop the spread.”

Alexander was personally installed by Caputo, whom Trump appointed to lead the health department’s communications efforts. Despite his having no scientific background, Trump wanted Caputo to assemble a team to shape how the various agencies of government would publicly discuss coronavirus and how they would respond to it. Caputo says Trump instructed him to “bring expertise” and that “the first call I made after I got off the phone with the president” was to give Alexander the job as his deputy.

Officials told Politico that when Alexander made recommendations, it was clear to them that he represented the wishes of the White House and had the backing of the president.

“It was understood that he spoke for Michael Caputo, who spoke for the White House,” said Kyle McGowan, a Trump appointee who was CDC chief of staff before leaving this summer. “That’s how they wanted it to be perceived.”

The revelations explain, too, the push to reopen the economy in many states where the CDC health guidelines for reopening had not yet been met. Commenting on the latter, Alexander noted from time to time in his emails progress made in the push to increase infection rates.

“There is a rise in cases due to testing and also simultaneously due to the relaxing of restrictions, less social distancing,” he wrote in a July 24 email. “We always knew as you relax and open up, cases will rise.”

Public health experts have long condemned plans to deliberately infect younger, healthier Americans with COVID-19, saying that it would unnecessarily put millions of people at risk of long-term complications and even death. Scientists also say the approach fails to account for infected younger people spreading the virus to more vulnerable older or less healthy family members and co-workers.

It is clearer than ever now that the major reason Dr. Anthony Fauci fell out of favor with Trump was his revulsion with this policy. “We certainly are not wanting to wait back and just let people get infected so that you can develop herd immunity. That’s certainly not my approach,” Fauci said in September.

Clyburn’s coronavirus subcommittee charged Wednesday night that documents he has seen and the emails “show a pernicious pattern of political interference by Administration officials.”

“As the virus spread through the country, these officials callously wrote, ‘who cares’ and ‘we want them infected,'” Clyburn said. “They privately admitted they ‘always knew’ the President’s policies would cause a ‘rise’ in cases, and they plotted to blame the spread of the virus on career scientists.”

In an email during the summer when the infection rates again began to spiral, Alexander wrote, “So the bottom line is if it is more infectiouness [sic] now, the issue is who cares?” If it is causing more cases in young, my word is who cares…as long as we make sensible decisions, and protect the elderely [sic] and nursing homes, we must go on with life….who cares if we test more and get more positive tests.”

Some of the documents Clyburn referenced were only turned over to his subcommittee by the Trump administration after the election—months after his inquiry began. The revelations, according to Clyburn, mean HHS must cooperate with his investigation and that CDC Director Redfield must explain the details surrounding an email that he allegedly told staff to delete. Otherwise, Clyburn said, “I will be forced to start issuing subpoenas.”

The emails show Alexander really had no idea what he was talking about as he was pushing Trump administration policy on HHS. “I did not want to look like a nut ball,” he wrote in one message, “and if as they think and as I think this may be true … several hard hit areas may have hit heard [sic] at 20% like NYC,” Alexander added. “[T]hat’s my argument….why not consider it?”

McGowan, the former CDC chief of staff, said that Alexander was able, in addition to pushing herd immunity, to manipulate information making publicly released coronavirus news sound favorable to Trump. McGowan said Alexander was able to delay the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports and that he was the person behind diluting policies that his agency generated.

“He absolutely put pressure on the CDC on different guidance documents, on MMWRs,” McGowan said. “He wanted to change MMWRs that were already posted, which is just outrageous.”

Alexander’s edicts to various government agencies became more bizarre and conspiracy-oriented by late summer. In August and early September, he contacted press officers at the National Institutes of Health instructing them to muzzle Fauci and control what he said to the media. He demanded that Fauci stop saying children should wear masks in school and advocating that school-age and university students be tested for the virus.

In mid-September, acting as Trump’s bulldog and pursuing the line advocated by Alexander, Caputo made a Facebook Live video post accusing the CDC of acting as a “resistance unit” to intentionally make Trump look bad. He said that CDC scientists were guilty of “sedition” and produced “rotten science.” His claim echoed accusations Alexander made back in June scolding the CDC for supposedly undermining the president when it issued a report about coronavirus risks to pregnant women. Alexander said at the time that the guidelines for expectant mothers “reads in a way to frighten women…as if the President and his administration can’t fix this and it is getting worse.” Of course, the administration wasn’t fixing it, and things were getting worse.

During the Facebook broadcast, Caputo called on Trump supporters to prepare for an insurrection against scientists and defended Alexander and called him a “genius.”

‘We want them infected’: The unofficial policy being pushed by the Trump administration was one of mass infection through ‘herd immunity. It was advocated by advisor Paul Alexander, right, who was deputy to Trump’s hand-picked coronavirus communications guru, Michael Caputo, center. | Photos via AP

Following the conspiracy-laced tirade on social media, HHS announced two days later that Alexander was out and that Caputo would take a 60-day mental health leave. The public rants were too much bad publicity for the president in the closing weeks of the election campaign.

Within days of Caputo and Alexander being relieved of command over coronavirus communications, scientists at CDC forced a reversal of the agency’s prior guidance that asymptomatic people who have been around infected persons do not need to be tested. The statement had originally been placed on the CDC website on orders of the White House and HHS leadership.

The health department has attempted to put space between itself and Alexander since then, but he continues to defend his actions while working for Trump. In an interview with the Toronto Globe and Mail following his ouster, Alexander said his goal was to force the CDC to issue reports that were “more upbeat so that people would feel more confident going out and spending money.”

He argued that no government agency “should contradict any president’s policy” and said he remains better suited than scientists to assess coronavirus information and data. “None of those people have my skills,” he reasoned. “I make the judgment whether this is crap.”

The mass death now being inflicted on the country as a result of the administration’s disastrous policies prove it was precisely Alexander’s assessments and judgment that were crap. It confirms one other thing: Donald Trump has laid out for himself an unprecedented legacy from Hell. As each day passes, the list of reasons to celebrate his defeat in November grows.

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CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

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