MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Republican leader of the Alabama Senate said he used a poor choice of words when he suggested he wanted more people to get infected with the new coronavirus.
“It was a poor choice of words on my end,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh told The Associated Press, saying he didn’t wish for anyone to become ill.
Marsh drew criticisms for comments to reporters Thursday when asked about rising COVID-19 infection numbers in Alabama. He suggested more infections meant the state was closer to herd immunity.
“I’m not as concerned so much as the number of cases, in fact, quite honestly, I want to see more people because we start reaching an immunity as more people have it and get through it,” Marsh told news outlets.
“I don’t want any deaths, as few as possible. I get it. So those people who are susceptible to the disease, especially those with pre-existing conditions, elderly population, those folks we need to do all we can to protect them.”
The Anniston Republican told the AP on Friday that “it was a poor choice of words.”
Marsh said if a vaccine doesn’t come, he hopes herd immunity will eventually protect people from the illness caused by the new coronavirus.
“I don’t wish for people to get the disease. I do wish for herd immunity,” Marsh said.
Herd immunity is when enough people have had a disease and developed immunity that the virus cannot spread easily. But doctors have cautioned they don’t yet know if COVID-19 survivors have long-term immunity.
“At this time, scientists do not know whether persons who have had COVID 19 will have immunity that lasts for a long period of time. Currently, it appears that at least 60% to 70% of persons would need to have COVID 19 for herd immunity and, again, no one knows how long this immunity would last,” Dr. Karen Landers, Assistant State Health Officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, told news outlets.
So far about 1% of the state population has reported a positive test result, according to numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
The state has had more than 51,000 total confirmed cases of the virus, according to data released by the department Saturday morning. At least 1,086 people in Alabama who contracted the virus have died.
The Alabama Democratic Party criticized Marsh’s comments.
“It is this type of dangerously stupid thinking that hurts Alabamians. We need politicians to just shut up and listen to health officials,” the party wrote on social media.