Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, a constitutional scholar but not an infectious disease expert, offered an assessment of the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday morning that was decidedly one-dimensional. The internet and Tribe’s legal peers promptly swarmed the dire pronouncement, which was walked back somewhat in subsequent tweets.
Tribe said there’s only one possible ending to the coronavirus pandemic: most Americans getting COVID-19 to develop immunity and … a lot of death.
“Because it’s too late to contain COVID-19, there’s only one possible ending to the story: We must collectively develop immunity to the disease,” Tribe said. “In lieu of a vaccine, that means most of us will need to be exposed to the virus. Some unknowably large number of us will therefore die.”
This did not go over well.
Much of the response was that this law professor was out of his depth. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a law professor professed to know how the coronavirus story would unfold (see: Richard A. Epstein’s extremely wrong death toll prediction).
At least one attorney peer said the Tribe tweet sounded pretty Trumpian, which is interesting because Tribe is about as anti-Trump as they come. He has practically been calling for Donald Trump’s impeachment since his inauguration.
Is this a parody of trump?
— Dylan Russell (@TxTrialAttorney) April 17, 2020
People were not having the use of the word “we.”
Is this an invitation for people to come by your house and cough on you? Because if not maybe avoid the “we” shit
— Eoin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) April 17, 2020
Usually your bullshit doesn’t kill people. This bullshit might. Shut up.
— Angus Johnston 😷 (@studentactivism) April 17, 2020
Still others importantly noted that getting COVID-19 doesn’t necessarily equal immunity from reinfection.
Hi, I am an immunologist, and I can tell you unequivocally that there is no evidence on lasting immunity to SARS CoV2, and that, furthermore, evidence on longterm immunity to other coronaviruses is at best mixed.
— Thiago Carvalho (@CyrilPedia) April 17, 2020
Hi. As a person who just survived this terrible virus, there is NO EVIDENCE that people cannot get reinfected, even very soon after an initial illness, and some evidence that they can! This is very irresponsible!!
— Summer Brennan 🌈 (@summerbrennan) April 17, 2020
In later tweets, Tribe acknowledged that there are other options and jobs to do other than getting COVID-19.
It appears that the tweetstorm was at least partially inspired by reporting that indicates there is no federal plan for widespread testing. The Trump administration made clear on Thursday that it believes testing is up to the states and the governors.
[Image via CNN screengrab]
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