Stanford professor: To fully eliminate COVID-19, we would have to 'destroy our entire society'

"We'll have to get rid of all of our freedoms," he argues, calling the cost "not worth it."

Published: October 2, 2020 1:02pm

Updated: October 3, 2020 1:16pm

A professor of medicine at Stanford University has warned that the only way to fully eliminate COVID-19 from the population will be to effectively destroy society itself, a price tag he said was too high for the goal of beating the deadly disease.

Jay Bhattacharya recently made that grim pronouncement during a virtual roundtable with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and several other public health experts. Bhattacharya over the last few months has been an outspoken critic of many of the ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns and mitigation measures that were first imposed in March of this year. 

Speculating on the possibility of getting to "zero COVID," a scenario he said may not even be "technically feasible," Bhattacharya said the cost would be "so high ... that it's not worth it."

"[W]e know that we're going to have to destroy our society in order to get it," he said. "We’ll have to get rid of all of our freedoms; we'll have to make sure that very few people interact with each other."

Countries across the world over the past several months have attempted to beat COVID-19 by using lockdowns ranging from the mild to the severe. Many commentators over the summer argued that European countries had successfully utilized lockdowns to bring the pandemic under control, though countries such as the U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium and others have all seen recent case spikes, some of them rivaling or exceeding the rates observed in the spring of this year. 

Bhattacharya said that, though scientists are able to advise citizens on how to avoid getting COVID-19, "it's up to non-scientists to decide whether it's worth it."

"You can't put one person on a pedestal and ask them to make that decision for society," he said, arguing that society "shouldn't elevate one person as the arbiter of all the right things to do on infectious disease."

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