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House speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday said the Trump administration pursued a “herd immunity” strategy for containing the coronavirus out of a misguided belief in “quackery” over scientific evidence in fighting the coronavirus, and claimed that “faith-oriented” people have told her they don’t believe in science.
“because the administration simply did not believe in testing, tracing, treatment, wearing masks, sanitation, separation and the rest.”
“It has become clear to us now that they believed in herd immunity, quackery, springing right from the oval office and not denied sufficiently by some of the CDC and the rest,” she said. “So, now we have a vaccine and that gives us hope. A vaccine that springs from science.”
“People say around here sometimes, ‘I’m faith-oriented so I don’t believe in science’ and I said, ‘Well you can do both. Science is an answer to our prayers and our prayers have been answered with a vaccine.’”
She added that the $900 billion relief package contains funding for the vaccine to be “developed, purchased and distributed in a way, again, that is fair and equitable and free.”
The speaker was likely referencing a recent Politico report that was based on July emails in which an advisor to the assistant HHS secretary for public affairs made the case for a herd immunity strategy. While the sender’s superiors said they would look into the policy, the report did not include evidence that the administration shaped policy decisions around the strategy.
Pelosi turned down Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s offer of a $1.8 billion relief bill in October, saying it was too limited. She abruptly shifted her negotiating position after the presidential election, telling reporters that she was open to a smaller bill since president-elect Joe Biden would soon take office.
In addition to funding for vaccine distribution and coronavirus testing, the legislation also provides a $600 direct payment to most Americans as well as a $300 weekly increase in federal unemployment benefits for 11 weeks, less than the $600 extra a week that was included in the CARES Act earlier this year and expired in July.
The relief bill includes about $325 billion in small business relief, and $257 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which grants loans to small businesses to help them avoid laying off employees.