One of President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus advisers floated the idea of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown in an effort to rein in the illness and rejuvenate the economy as new cases climb once again.
Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota expert on infectious diseases, said in an interview with Yahoo! Finance that a four- to six-week lockdown could both control the virus’ spread and benefit the economy.
“We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages, for individual workers,” he told the outlet, noting low interest rates. He added that federal borrowing could bail out small- and medium-sized companies, cities, states and county governments.
“If we did that, then we could lock down for four to six weeks, and if we did that, we could drive the numbers down,” he said. “Like they’ve done in Asia. Like they did in New Zealand and Australia.”
He argued that method would protect the economy until vaccines under development are ready for release.
He said a vaccine could be widely available next year – but not before the risk of “pandemic fatigue” sets in as people slack off on their adherence to coronavirus health guidelines.
In particular, he warned, Americans could start gathering more in indoor spaces, where the virus spreads more easily, as the weather grows cooler.
So he is urging social distancing and other public health recommendations in addition to renewed shutdowns.
Earlier this week, Osterholm warned that the country was about to enter “COVID hell” as new cases soar and hospitals see a renewed strain on their capacity to treat the illness.
“When we were at 32,000 cases a day in the United States, people thought that maybe things were going to start going away,” he told Minnesota Public Radio Monday. “As you saw, we're now at 125,000 cases per day. We're seeing hospitals right now completely overwhelmed in a number of states.”
Those numbers will continue to climb, he predicted, for at least the next two to three months.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.