FORBES – You may not want to lock in any travel plans for early 2021. In an interview yesterday with Yahoo Finance, a key advisor on President-elect Biden’s Covid-19 taskforce floated the idea of a national lockdown for four to six weeks to control the pandemic.
“This is the virus versus us,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “We are entering this period that I call Covid hell.”
We continue to set records for new Covid-19 cases. Yesterday the United States recorded over 144,000 new positive cases, according to tracking data from Johns Hopkins University.
This current surge will be bigger, longer and deadlier than the first two, and is not expected to peak until mid-January, according to the often-cited model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
By February 1, 2021, the illness will have claimed nearly 400,000 American lives. When Joe Biden takes office in late January, said Osterholm, the country might need a nationwide circuit breaker to disrupt the spread of the virus.
He said it’s possible to control the pandemic in a way that helps the economy instead of hurting it, by coupling a stimulus package with a lockdown.
One of Biden’s new coronavirus task force doctors floating the idea of a 4-6 week lockdown:
“We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the lost wages for individual workers … if we did that, then we could lockdown for 4 to 6 weeks.”
“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,” said Osterholm.
“If we did that, then we could lock down for four to six weeks. We could drive the numbers down like they’ve done in Asia, like they did in New Zealand and Australia,” he continued. “And then we could really watch ourselves cruising into vaccine availability in the first or second quarter of next year, and bringing back the economy long before that.”
President-elect Biden appointed Osterholm to his 12-member Covid advisory board on Monday. The panel is co-chaired by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former FDA Commissioner David Kessler and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith of Yale University. Other key advisors include Dr. Rick Bright, the Trump administration vaccine expert turned whistleblower, and Dr. Atul Gawande, a professor of surgery and health policy at Harvard.
In the near term, public health experts and a growing number of state governors are raising red flags that the upcoming Thanksgiving travel weekend is shaping up to be a superspreader event. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for Thanksgiving deems “attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household” to be high risk.
“Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes Covid-19,” according to the CDC. “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.”