To the editor: A year ago, we visited beautiful Great Barrington.

While there, we authored and signed the Great Barrington Declaration, advocating for better focused protection of older, high-risk people while letting children and young adults live more normal lives. Signed by 850,000-plus people, it quickly received worldwide attention. It was also gravely mischaracterized by some. Never having communicated directly with the local community, we would like to make up for that by describing its rationale.

The U.S. has more than 750,000 reported COVID deaths. While COVID can infect anyone, there is more than a thousand-fold difference in the risk of death between the oldest and youngest. Naively believing that lockdowns and masks would protect the old, public health officials never implemented the full complement of traditional measures to specifically protect the old. If our concrete proposals for focused protection had been adopted, many lives could have been saved. For example, we suggested that workers in their 60s should receive support for a temporary leave of absence during the height of transmission rather than being forced to work to support their families. Nursing homes should have hired qualified COVID-recovered patients to care for residents to limit infections, since they have excellent immunity. University students should have stayed on campus among low-risk peers rather than infecting higher-risk parents and grandparents at home.

School closings had minimal effect on the pandemic while causing enormous collateral damage. Despite minimal risk of COVID mortality, children have carried the heaviest burden. Working-class children were especially hard hit.

We wish to thank the American Institute for Economic Research for inviting us to Great Barrington for media interviews. AIER staff did not know about the declaration until the day before we signed it, and the president and board not until after it was published. Still, we are incredibly grateful to everyone there, including Ann Grochmal, our charming hostess who helped with accommodations and travel logistics. A free spirit who eschewed wearing a mask, she never asked us to wear one either. This grace allowed us to do the video interviews without covering our faces.

The pandemic is not yet over but it will eventually become endemic. Until then, it is critically important to vaccinate older people without natural immunity, and to implement the other focused protection measures that we proposed.

Great Barrington will always be close to our hearts. One day we hope to visit again.

Jay Bhattacharya, M.D., Ph.D.

Martin Kulldorff, Ph.D.

The writers are, respectively, a health economist, epidemiologist and professor of medicine at Stanford University; and a biostatistician, epidemiologist and scientific director at the Brownstone Institute.