Admission he lowballed estimated herd immunity threshold follows earlier acknowledgement he misled on efficacy of masks.
Updated: December 28, 2020 – 3:53pm
Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared to admit last week that he has deliberately misled the public regarding the coronavirus — for the second time since the pandemic began.
In a Christmas Eve interview with the New York Times, Fauci acknowledged he had offered a lower estimate of the level of herd immunity necessary to stop the COVID-19 pandemic because he thought Americans would be discouraged by hearing his true thoughts on the issue.
He recently raised his estimate on the herd immunity threshold “partly based on new science,” the newspaper reported, “and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.”
Fauci himself told the paper that he had withheld the higher estimates because polling results made him think such estimates would be viewed unfavorably.
“When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,” he told reporter Donald McNeil. “Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85.”
Fauci admitted that scientists “really don’t know what the real number is,” though he himself estimated that the “real range is somewhere between 70 to 90 percent.”
“But, I’m not going to say 90 percent,” he added, because “doing so might be discouraging to Americans,” according to the Times.
Fauci’s reported admission that he altered his public scientific estimates on the basis of polling numbers is not the first time the doctor has admitted to misleading the public during the COVID crisis.
At the outset of the pandemic, Fauci — like most public health authorities — advised against wearing face masks, telling the public that doing so was unnecessary unless an individual was showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Fauci said earlier this month that he had accepted a medical advisory role in a Biden administration set to commence next month, a move that suggests the Biden administration’s pandemic priorities may hew closely to those advocated by Fauci over the last year, including social distancing measures and mask mandates.
In spite of widespread mask usage throughout the U.S., as well as broad reported observance of social distancing rules, positive COVID-19 tests have reached averages of around 220,000 per day over the last several weeks.
It is unclear why those numbers have risen so high even as mitigation measures have been in place for many months, although some experts have argued that the widely used PCR test for the virus can be significantly oversensitive.
Many of those tests, if they return a positive result, may actually just be picking up “dead nucleotides,” Fauci himself cautioned in July.