Recently, a figure to whom millions of Americans look for guidance — Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an adviser to both the Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration — has begun incrementally raising his herd-immunity estimate.
In the pandemic’s early days, Dr. Fauci tended to cite the same 60 to 70 percent estimate that most experts did. About a month ago, he began saying “70, 75 percent” in television interviews. And last week, in an interview with CNBC News, he said “75, 80, 85 percent” and “75 to 80-plus percent.”
In a telephone interview the next day, Dr. Fauci acknowledged that he had slowly but deliberately been moving the goal posts. He is doing so, he said, partly based on new science, and partly on his gut feeling that the country is finally ready to hear what he really thinks.
Hard as it may be to hear, he said, he believes that it may take close to 90 percent immunity to bring the virus to a halt — almost as much as is needed to stop a measles outbreak.
Asked about Dr. Fauci’s conclusions, prominent epidemiologists said that he might be proven right…
Dr. Fauci said that weeks ago, he had hesitated to publicly raise his estimate because many Americans seemed hesitant about vaccines, which they would need to accept almost universally in order for the country to achieve herd immunity.
Here is the full NYT story. A few points:
1. Surely Straussianism by now should be persuasive as a general theory.
2. Fauci is idolized by many as a kind of anti-Trump, but he is a terrible risk communicator, as evidenced also by his recent attacks on some of the “lesser” vaccines (which still would work if applied collectively). Not to mention his earlier remarks on masks, and also the mid-March safety of cruises. How a person understands Fauci is in fact a pretty good litmus test.
3. Should you be trusting everything the insiders are telling you about FDA processes?
4. I genuinely do not know what the herd immunity threshold is, but I assure you I am trying to tell you the truth on this one (and other matters). My Straussianism is not a normative theory of my own communication, but rather a positive theory of how the world works, and it has been vindicated once again.