To Embrace Herd Immunity is to Embrace Mass Deaths

Julia A. Pulver, RN, MSN, CCM
5 min readOct 13, 2020
Image from Bridge Michigan article by Robin Erb, October 12, 2020

Image from Bridge Michigan article by Robin Erb, October 12, 2020

In an article written by Robin Erb in the October 12, 2020 edition of Bridge Michigan, a top Michigan Republican has officially gone on record as embracing “herd immunity” as a valid strategy to address our current COVID-19 crisis. Erb reports that Shirkey is arguing that the state “should allow the coronavirus to spread in the hopes of achieving “herd immunity.” The Shirkey arguing to embrace a herd immunity strategy in Michigan is the Michigan Senate Republican Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.

He made similar statements at a rally covered by MLive, where he shouted, unmasked to the crowd of other unmasked people, “Nobody should be misled here or of the opinion that you can keep it from spreading — it’s going to spread, so we just do the best we can,” he continued. “I’m also a big believer that there’s an element of herd immunity that needs to take place.”

So to break down into laymen’s terms so the message can fully land: they are advocating for encouraging COVID-19 to spread everywhere as quickly as possible. Then whoever dies, too bad. If you’re left standing when this is all over, then good for you, you get to go on living.

THAT’S THEIR PLAN! That’s what relying solely on “herd immunity” means. It means mass death. It means giving up on attempting to limit the infection’s impact on our citizens while we buy time for mass testing to trace and isolate outbreaks and a safe, effective vaccine. (Which is how we reach herd immunity without mass deaths.)

Giving up on COVID-19 safety measures, embracing a “you’re on your own, we’re going to give up on even the most basic measures because we don’t wanna anymore” is tantamount to embracing and endorsing a massacre.

That’s literally their plan: kill off a certain percentage of our population so they don’t have to be burdened with wearing masks sometimes.

Why are Michigan Republicans waving the white flag and giving up on us?

These modest measures, (yes, modest, when compared to proposing human sacrifices) have taken Michigan from a top three state in March as far as infection rates and deaths, to now being one of the lowest trending states, per the CDC ‘s own data tracker. Locking down early, requiring masking in all public places, and taking COVID seriously from the start and not messing around has shown the country what can be done when strong leaders take smart steps, and don’t throw up their hands and say “well, I guess some of you have to die now.”

Michigan effectively bend the curve early and trends continue remain low. We are in yellow.

Due to her swift, decisive and science based approach, Gov. Whitmer has not only saved thousands of lives, that early intervention has led our state to the point where we are able to begin reopening where appropriate. My kids go to school for half a day four days a week. Our hospitals are not overwhelmed and have resumed non-emergent services and surgeries, I’ve even gotten a couple hair cuts. We are enjoying outdoor fall staple activities like cider mills, but with a few modifications, to keep us all safe. We are still enjoying our favorite foods, but maybe at our dining table instead of inside the restaurant. Lots of people remain unemployed, but as of September 1, 2020 “Michigan was 88% “back to normal,” as of Sept. 1, compared to 79% for the U.S. average.”

Is life back to normal? Of course not, but we are making progress here in Michigan, unlike many states who did not heed the warnings that came out of early states and public health officials in time. They are now paying the price of denialism, hubris and willful ignorance of their elected officials. We are seeing the cases skyrocket across the rest of the country in places that didn’t take basic steps like mask mandates and social distancing. So why in the world are Michigan Republicans fighting so hard to undo all our progress and champion a strategy that accepts avoidable deaths as collateral damage in a war we’re winning?

I refuse to sit idly by while Michigan Republicans float the idea of sacrificing tens of thousands of our lives. Especially when the “why” isn’t clear. Despite the opinions of a few providers out there who are willing to risk their reputation, and licensure even, to agree with this idea, the rest of the medical community has condemned any notion of herd immunity as immoral, unethical and dangerous. Basic safety measures, like wearing a mask, staying physically distant from others, avoiding large indoor gatherings, testing, tracing and isolating when positive, are NOT too much to ask when 30,000 Michigan lives hang in the balance.

Whatever the reason for this rallying cry from Michigan Republicans to undo all the progress we’ve made and all the lives we’ve saved in the last 7 months by embracing herd immunity, it’s completely unacceptable. I refuse to give up the lives of my family, friends, neighbors and fellow Michiganders, my fellow human beings, just because it’s hard.

If I am fortunate enough to be elected (to replace my current representative who has downplayed the severity of COVID, refuses to wear a mask to this day and has fought Gov. Whitmer every step of the way), I won’t shirk my responsibility to keep my constituents safe. I won’t give up on you and be smugly resigned to your impending deaths. I won’t put you in harms way because it’s politically expedient for me. As long as there’s an iota of hope that we can get through this, I will fight for your life with everything I’ve got. Maybe it’s my training as a nurse, or my experience as a mom, or my upbringing as a Unitarian Universalist, but I will never let my own ego, career or narcissism cost you your life.

Herd immunity is not an acceptable answer to “How should we handle COVID in Michigan going forward?” Let’s make sure come January 2021 that we have a Democratic Majority in the house that roundly rejects it.



Julia A. Pulver, RN, MSN, CCM

Julia A. Pulver has been an RN for over 17 years. She has spent her career working with the most at risk populations in Southeast Michigan. #PostRoeHarm