A national lockdown as Covid-19 cases tick up is “a measure of last resort,” the co-chair of Joe Biden’s coronavirus taskforce, Vivek Murthy, said Sunday.
“We have got to approach this with the position of a scalpel rather than the blunt force of an ax,” the former surgeon general told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” arguing for a more nuanced approach.
The coronavirus has spiked throughout America in recent weeks, repeatedly setting daily records. There are now almost 11 million diagnosed cases in the United States and more than 245,000 Americans have died; both figures are by far the highest in the world.
Another Biden adviser, Dr. Michael Osterholm, this week floated a four- to six-week lockdown should cases continue to increase. But he walked back his comments after admitting he had not spoken to anyone on the transition team about it.
“The way we think about lockdowns, I think, is different now than it was in the spring,” Murthy said Sunday. “In the spring when we didn’t know a lot about Covid, we responded, in a sense, with an on-off switch. We just shut things down because we didn’t know exactly how this was spreading and where it was spreading.”
But “the better way to think about these safety restrictions is more as a dial that we turn up and down depending on severity, and that’s really the key here,” he went on. “It is applying these restrictions judiciously and precisely.”
What the U.S. needs, Murthy said, is a “national alert system” “that can help states and localities determine when to dial up and down their restrictions,” as well as “adequate resources for them to put these restrictions in place,” like funds for schools to hire more teachers and improve ventilation systems.
“If we just lock down the entire country without targeting our efforts, then we are going to exacerbate the pandemic fatigue people are feeling,” Murthy said. “We are going to hurt jobs and the economy; we are going to shut down schools and hurt the education of our children.”
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has also been outspoken against a national lockdown — though he did not rule out the possibility Sunday.
“We are not going to get a national lockdown,” Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think that’s very clear.”
“What we are going to start seeing at the local levels … [are] very surgical type of restrictions which are the functional equivalent of a local lockdown,” he went on. “But we’re not going to have a national lockdown.”
However, he said: “If things really get bad and you put your foot on the pedal and, yet, still you have the surge, you may need to take the extra step you’re talking about.”
An effective vaccine rollout “in the second, third quarter” of next year could mean a sense of normality for Americans “well into 2021,” Fauci said.
“It’s not going to be a light switch,” he said. “We are not going to turn it on and off, going from where we are to completely normal.”
“It’s going to be a gradual accrual of more normality as the weeks and the months go by, as we get well into 2021.”