Dr. Michael Osterholm, a coronavirus adviser to presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden, on Wednesday called for a four-to-six-week federal lockdown that he said would help combat the pandemic and keep the economy afloat while the country awaits a vaccine.
In an interview with Yahoo Finance Live, Dr. Osterholm, who was named a member of Mr. Biden’s coronavirus task force earlier this week, said the U.S. is “entering this period that I call COVID hell” and that drastic measures need to be taken to keep hospitalizations down.
“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, and this is what we gotta do about it,’ in a way that they believe it, they understand it, they feel it.”
Dr. Osterholm argued that isolated lockdowns by state or by county only have “limited impact,” and that things will get worse without nationwide action.
“If I interviewed 50 people today in the U.S. for what they define a lockdown as, I could get 75 different answers,” he said.
“We have a big pool of money out there that we could borrow — the historic low interest rates by the federal government — 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, states, county governments. We could do all of that,” he continued. “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 like they’ve done in Asia, like they did in New Zealand and Australia, and then we could really watch ourselves cruising into the vaccine availability in the first and second quarter of next year and bringing back the economy long before that.”
Dr. Osterholm cited an August op-ed he co-authored with Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari in which they argued for a comprehensive and “strict as possible” federal lockdown that would greatly narrow the definition of “essential” workers or businesses.
One of Biden’s new coronavirus task force doctors floating the idea of a 4-6 week lockdown:— Zack Guzman (@zGuz) November 11, 2020
“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.”pic.twitter.com/zNmuQvPpIJ
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