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Published On: Fri, Jul 3rd, 2020

Survival of the Fittest vs Herd immunity? Just wear a Mask!

Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency in late February, closed public schools on March 12, and she and health authorities closed seven counties in the Bay area on March 16. Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered “shelter-in-place” (SIP) for state of California on March 19. They should be commended on the national stage for helping CA residents dodge the initial onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic and for saving thousands of lives with their timely response. This is the type of leadership we need in the White House.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed the state of New York March 22. NYC as lost 22,000+ lives to date, compared to 525 deaths in the Bay area. Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have done commendable jobs since the closure but the difference in mortality between the two cities is remarkable. Don’t wave the victory flag just yet Californians. There is a “second wave” of Covid-19 and it’s here, as evidenced by the recent rise in cases and hospitalizations.

Dr. Anthony Fauci Director of Infectious Disease at the NIH, and the country’s foremost expert in this arena. recently testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that a second wave in the fall is inevitable. It’s not if, just when. His advice is to wear a mask, wash your hands, practice strict social distancing (SD) , and SIP! It’s so simple it seems like it wouldn’t work. We all need to comply with these recommendations. Let’s learn from the past and try not to repeat our mistakes; the definition of insanity? The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 that followed WWI was the last serious pandemic our country faced.  That flu killed 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 in the US. Again, San Francisco led the nation in the initial quarantining efforts with only 1857 of lives lost in November 1918. The city declared victory against the “flu” pre-maturely, only to be crushed by the second wave that winter killing 3213 people in the city.

Imagine de Gerd Altmann de la Pixabay



Sweden employed the biological concept of Herd Immunity as national policy for the current Covid-19 pandemic. The jury is still out on the results however early death rates reported were higher in Sweden than other Scandinavian countries and Sweden has since scrapped the idea. The theory behind Herd immunity is for the younger, healthier people to not SIP and go about business as usual. Hopefully they contract and recover from the virus as most younger people do and develop antibodies and hence immunity.  Theoretically, the younger community surround or “herd” the high-risk population and protect them with their immunity. For this to be effective 60-70% of the population needs to be infected and right now only about 4-6% in CA.   Like many of the predictive models determining when is the next Covid pandemic is, Herd Immunity is a theory. There is little scientific evidence that this theory would work in situations like NY and CA where the population is so dense, where there are many more homeless, poor and uneducated people that can’t practically be protected by SD and SIP. In addition, Herd immunity works best if its implemented early at the beginning of the pandemic, not now.

San Francisco is already practicing Herd immunity; California style. I see people every day without masks who are not practicing SD despite the state-wide order. The strange thing is that almost all of the people without masks are younger individuals, say 35 and younger. The beaches and parks are policed and barricaded because folks can’t follow the rules.  As the weather gets warmer, the more the recommendations are challenged. There’s a “type of herd immunity” in action here, implemented not because of scientific data, or CDC recommendations but because of individuals who can’t take time to figure out that the reason for wearing a mask is to protect others from them! It’s a very self-centered behavior.  Maybe their parents or grandparents might be saved by someone wearing a mask. It’s proven that individuals carry and spread the virus asymptomatically for several days and not know it.

An older, biological concept is also being tested here; “Survival of the Fittest.” This is Darwin’s theory that the strongest and smartest of a species reproduce and thrive so that their DNA is passed onto future generations.  God and mother nature gave humans large brains compared to other species, to help us survive. Therefore, I implore us to think, and think often and think carefully. Try to ignore things like the POTUS February 28th statement ;  “It’s going to disappear one day, it’s like a miracle.” Charles Darwin was a really smart man. Dr. Fauci still is. Listen to him and think! Joe Biden and all of his team wore masks. Mr. Trump and his team do not. Lets all remember it’s about science, not science fiction.

Author: Matthew Boente MD

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  1. […] to follow guidelines set by the state. For example, in some states, employees and customers are required to wear masks in public – indoors and out – unless medically […]

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