A coronavirus advisor to president elect Joe Biden believes that shutting down businesses nationally for between four to six weeks could help the United States from entering 'Covid hell'.
Dr. Michael Osterholm said Wednesday that a national lockdown may be the best way to keep hospitalizations and deaths down across the country until a vaccine can be distributed.
Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, claims that the country's economy will not suffer as a result, if enough money is borrowed to pay wages during the shutdowns.
It comes as coronavirus hospitalizations and infections hit single-day highs in the U.S., although deaths are still about half what they were in the peak in April.
On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo already began pulling back opening hours of bars and restaurants, ordering them to close at 10pm daily from this Friday as cases in the state rise.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, who was appointed to Biden's COVID-19 task force Monday, suggests that the U.S. should go into a national four- to six-week lockdown as it awaits a vaccine
Osterholm said Wednesday that a national lockdown may be the best way to keep hospitalizations and deaths down across the country until a vaccine can be distributed. A nearly empty Times Square pictured in March 2020 during New York City's first lockdown
Osterholm, however, believes that a more stringent national lockdown is needed, with uniform restrictions taken in each of the states if the rise in cases is to be combated.
He told Yahoo News that cases are rising as more people are being forced indoors due to the cold weather, where the virus can spread more easily.
It also comes as people suffer from 'pandemic fatigue' and grow tired of wearing masks and social distancing, he suggested.
'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, according to CNBC.
'If we did that, then we could lockdown for four-to-six weeks.'
He also referenced a New York Times op-ed written by him and Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari in August in which they had argued for a wider national lockdown.
'The problem with the March-to-May lockdown was that it was not uniformly stringent across the country. For example, Minnesota deemed 78 percent of its workers essential,' they wrote.
'To be effective, the lockdown has to be as comprehensive and strict as possible.'
Osterholm suggested Wednesday that such as lockdown would bring the U.S. in line with the likes of New Zealand and Australia where new daily cases have been reduced to under ten cases.
'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,' he said.
Yet Osterholm suggested that there were worse days ahead for the country if this kind of action isn't taken.
He spoke of places such as El Paso, Texas, where officials have already closed businesses as the healthcare system becomes overwhelmed.
Dr. Michael Osterholm suggests that the U.S. can borrow money to pay wages if the country goes into a national lockdown. Pictured speaking in April about COVID-19 testing in Minnesota
Vacant storefronts in downtown El Paso, Texas, is late October as the city reports a record number of active coronavirus cases and the healthcare system is overwhelmed
Osterholm, who was among the members of Biden's task force the transition team announced on Monday, claimed that 'people don't want to hear that El Paso isn't an isolated event.
'El Paso, in many instances, will become the norm,' he added, touting Biden as the person to explain this to the American people.
'I think that the message is how do we get through this. We need FDR moments right now. We need fireside chats. We need somebody to tell America, "this is what in the hell is going to happen",' he said.
Earlier this week, Osterholm suggested that the country is going to 'Covid hell' if it doesn't take actions to tackle the rising cases soon.
He said that the next three to four months will be the darkest period for the pandemic so far as new daily cases continue to reach far above 100,000.
'What America has to understand is that we are about to enter Covid hell,' he told CNBC. 'It is happening.'
'We have not even come close to the peak and, as such, our hospitals are now being overrun,' Osterholm added. 'The next three to four months are going to be, by far, the darkest of the pandemic.'
President elect Biden has also spoken of the need for action before a vaccine is distributed as state officials voice concerns about the logistical issues involved in distributing the vaccine once one is ready.
'It's clear that this vaccine, even if approved, will not be widely available for many months yet to come,' Biden said Monday. 'The challenge before us right now is still immense and growing.'
Massive vaccine campaigns are nothing new but stamping out COVID-19 is a new challenge due to a number of factors: The short time frame for vaccinating a huge number of people, the logistics of shipping out doses to every stretch of the country and the very low temperature (-94F) at which some vaccines must be stored.
The federal government's effort to distribute the vaccine is being led by the Health Department's Operation Warp Speed and involves both the CDC and Department of Defense.
While distribution is being handled on a federal level, state and local healthcare providers are responsible for storing and administering vaccines once delivered.