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Health experts are split on when the U.S. will reach COVID-19 herd immunity

There’s rising hope among some health experts that America will achieve herd immunity to COVID-19 sooner than expected — and a healthy dose of skepticism to match.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Thursday, surgeon Marty Makary argued that the U.S. looks on track to reach herd immunity by April, and that health officials should say it. He pointed to an example of herd immunity seemingly achieved in a Brazilian city, and suggested more Americans may have had COVID-19 than we actually realized.

But Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist, had major problems with Makary’s reasoning, among them the fact that his argument didn’t account for more transmissible and possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variants now spreading around the world.

The Atlantic‘s James Hamblin takes a more nuanced approach in analysis published Friday. He notes that Fauci recently shifted his predictions for herd immunity from August to perhaps even May. That, combined with a natural reduction in cases during warmer months and the simple ability for people to do things outside, could make this summer feel “normal” again. But “under no circumstances is the coronavirus simply going to disappear this summer,” Hamblin writes, and COVID-19’s path when cold weather returns “depends on how nations cooperate and coordinate—or fail to.”

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