The nationwide lockdown to include the surge in Covid is “the final resort,” says Biden’s prime well being advisor
Pedestrians wear protective masks as they walk down El Paso Street in downtown El Paso, Texas, United States on Monday, November 9, 2020.
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A national corporate and school lockdown is a “measure of last resort” even as cases continue to rise to record highs in the US, a senior coronavirus adviser to President-elect Joe Biden said Sunday.
According to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, Covid-19 cases grew 5% or more in 47 states on Saturday, based on a weekly average. The US reported 166,555 new cases on Saturday, the second highest daily number of new cases.
The US now reports a weekly average of 145,401 cases per day, an increase of more than 33% from the previous week and a record average, according to Hopkins.
More than 69,400 people have been hospitalized with Covid-19, the highest number of patients with the virus at any point during the pandemic, according to the COVID Tracking Project, which is run by journalists in the Atlantic.
Biden’s top coronavirus advisors, who on Monday named a group of scientists to steer its Covid-19 response, have taken mixed views on whether the US should take lockdown measures to address the recent surge in certain cases to control.
“That’s a last resort measure,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former US surgeon general to head the group, told Fox News Sunday, adding that any lockdown at this stage of the pandemic would be different from the sweeping closings that states are enacting this spring to allow the virus suppress.
“In the spring we didn’t know much about Covid, we kind of responded with an on-off switch. We just turned things off because we didn’t know exactly how it spread and where it spread. But we’ve had a lot more since then learned, “said Murthy.
In this screenshot from the DNCC livestream for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, former US surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy on August 20, 2020 before the virtual congress.
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Murthy’s comments come after another Biden Covid-19 advisor, Dr. Michael Osterholm, who serves as the director of the Infectious Disease Research and Policy Center at the University of Minnesota, told Yahoo Finance in an interview on Wednesday that companies will be closed for four to six weeks in which people are paid for lost wages, could help suppress cases and hospital stays to a manageable level.
Osterholm later clarified his comments in an interview with NBC News, saying, “It wasn’t a recommendation. I never made that recommendation to Biden’s group. We never discussed it.”
A Biden transition official told NBC News that a shutdown “is not in line with the thinking of the president-elect”.
“We don’t support a nationwide lockdown,” said Dr. Atul Gawande, professor of surgery and health policy at Harvard and Biden advisor, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “You can take targeted action based on mask wear to include full testing, include dial-up and down-dial capacity restrictions, and these actions need to be more local.”
Both Gawande and Murthy cited New York’s “micro-cluster” strategy as an example. The state has placed stricter restrictions on certain areas depending on the spread of the coronavirus. The hardest hit red zones would be forced to close non-essential businesses and schools for personal learning while other surrounding areas can remain open with changes.
“On a zip code to zip code basis, you can apply different restrictions to get the virus under control. This is very effective. We don’t need to be shut down nationwide,” Gawande said.
More states are starting to re-engage in coronavirus restrictions and roll out nationwide mask mandates as coronavirus cases continue to surge ahead of the holidays. Many governors have pointed to “Covid fatigue” or poor compliance with recommended public health guidelines as one of the reasons for the swelling infections.
North Dakota governor Doug Burgum, a Republican who refused to adopt a mask mandate, ordered residents to cover their faces in public on Friday. On Thursday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine reintroduced a statewide mask mandate with stricter corporate enforcement measures.
“When we wear a mask, we keep our children in school and we protect our elderly and we protect our hospitals,” DeWine told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “We can see the end, we just have to hold out a few more months and do what we have to do to get through this.”