Biden COVID-19 advisor pushes ‘four to six week’ national lockdown to stem virus

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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s coronavirus adviser is calling for nationwide lockdowns that would last for a month or more.

The infectious disease expert from the University of Minnesota believes shutting down U.S. businesses again for four to six weeks while paying for Americans’ lost wages is the solution to controlling the spread of COVID-19 and rejuvenating the nation’s economy.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota who was named by Biden as one of his coronavirus advisers, floated his plan in an interview with Yahoo Finance on Wednesday.

“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 lockdown for four to six weeks.”

Osterholm, who was named to Biden’s 12-member COVID “advisory board” on Monday, believes the unconstitutional lockdown will bring the virus under control, “like they did in New Zealand and Australia.”

“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.

In addition to a call for renewed shutdowns, Osterholm pushed for continued social distancing as well as warning about the spread of the virus as the temperatures drop and Americans gather more together indoors. He gave a pessimistic outlook of future months as health-care systems face overwhelming demands, citing places such as El Paso, Texas, where a surge in deaths caused by the virus has led to business closures.

“People don’t want to hear that El Paso isn’t an isolated event. El Paso, in many instances, will become the norm,” he said. “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.’”

Osterholm’s argument is that the nationwide lockdowns will help the economy in the long run and keep Americans safe during the development of a vaccine, avoiding a “pandemic fatigue” that will set in. He warned earlier this week that the country is about to enter “COVID hell” as there have been more than 10.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the U.S.

“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 on 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.”

In an August op-ed he co-authored with Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari, Osterholm advocated more authoritarian lockdowns, contending that the measures taken earlier this spring were simply not strict enough.

“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 in The New York Times. “To be effective, the lockdown has to be as comprehensive and strict as possible.”

Biden had initially advocated for a national mask mandate, saying back in August: “Let’s institute a mask mandate nationwide starting immediately and we will save lives. The estimates are we will save over 40,000 lives in the next three months if that is done.”

He later admitted that he would not have the Constitutional authority to impose such a mandate. But this week, the former vice president brought up mask-wearing again.

“It’s time to end the politicization of basic, responsible public health steps like mask-wearing and social distancing,” he said on Monday during a speech in Wilmington, Del. “The single most effective thing we can do to stop the spread of COVID: Wear a mask.”

Another member of Biden’s coronavirus task force recently spoke out against “vaccine nationalism.” Oncologist and bioethicist Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel co-wrote an article in September arguing that a vaccine developed in the U.S. should be distributed internationally, and Americans should not be given priority.

Emanuel, who played a key role in drafting former President Obama’s Affordable Care act and is the brother of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, encouraged following the “Fair Priority Model.” He also came under scrutiny this week as a 2014 article titled “Why I Hope to Die at 75” resurfaced.

Meanwhile, Osterholm’s argument for a national lockdown understandably did not get a lot of support on social media.

Frieda Powers

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