A member of President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus advisory board says a six-week national shutdown could help save the U.S. economy.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a former science envoy for health security at the State Department, warned Covid-19 cases are rising because of “pandemic fatigue.” People may feel tired of wearing masks and social distancing, and colder weather is driving people indoors where the virus can spread more easily.
“You know, on Labor Day we were 32,000 cases a day in this country, now we’re running in the 120 to 130,000 cases a day,” Osterholm told CBS Tuesday. “Do not be at all surprised when we hit 200,000 cases a day.”
Osterholm told Yahoo! Finance on Wednesday that a nationwide shutdown would get cases and hospitalizations back down to manageable levels. According to Business Insider, Osterholm said the U.S. government could use a “big pool of money” from a relief bill to help pay for lost wages and get the economy back on track until a coronavirus vaccine is ready.
“We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers, for losses to small companies, to medium-sized companies or city, state, county governments. We could do all of that,” he said. “If we did that, then we could lock down for four to six weeks.”
“We could really watch ourselves cruising into the vaccine availability in the first and second quarter of next year while bringing back the economy long before that.”
CNBC reports Osterholm previously co-wrote an August op-ed in The New York Times criticizing the restrictions imposed in the spring because it was “not uniformly stringent across the country… To be effective, the lockdown has to be as comprehensive and strict as possible.”
He cited Australia and New Zealand, where new coronavirus cases dropped to less than 10 a day, as examples of where lockdowns worked.
“What America has to understand is that we are about to enter Covid hell,” Osterholm told CNBC on Monday. “It is happening.”
Osterholm is one of 13 people named to Biden’s COVID-19 advisory panel Monday, along with Dr. David Kessler, professor of pediatrics and epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco and a former FDA commissioner; Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general from 2014-17 who previously dealt with Ebola, Zika and the Flint water crisis; Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, associate professor of internal medicine, public health and management at Yale University; and Dr. Rick Bright, an immunologist and virologist ousted as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after filing a whistleblower complaint criticizing Trump’s coronavirus response.
The U.S. has seen more than 10.4 million coronavirus cases and 241,809 deaths as of Thursday, both more than any other country. Daily U.S. cases have been above 100,000 for more than a week, according to Johns Hopkins University.
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