For critics of aggressive stay-at-home orders, the solution seems clear: Reopen the economy and enough people will eventually become infected by the novel coronavirus to achieve “herd immunity” even before a vaccine is available.
The idea is that eventually, a sufficient percentage of the population will have survived COVID-19 and become immune, which in turn protects the rest of the uninfected population by interrupting the spread of the virus.
But the disastrous situation unfolding at San Quentin State Prison over the last two months has become the latest of several cautionary tales that show how any effort to achieve herd immunity before a vaccine is available would come with enormous costs in terms of illness and death.
COVID-19 spread unchecked across California’s oldest prison in ways that stunned public health experts, despite efforts to control the disease. As of Monday, there had been more than 2,200 cases and 25 deaths, among a population of more than 3,260 people. On Sunday, a guard became one of the latest to die.