Two members of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board said they are opposed to a blanket lockdown for the entire country, favoring local measures to target hot spots.
During an interview with Fox News Sunday, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, co-chairman of the advisory board, told Chris Wallace that “the way we think about lockdowns is different now” and the new administration is “not thinking of a national lockdown.”
“[A lockdown is] a measure of last resort,” Murthy said. “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, you know, we didn’t know exactly how this was spreading and where it was spreading. … The better way to think about these safety restrictions is more the dial that we turn up and down depending on severity, and that’s really the key here, is applying these restrictions judiciously and precisely.”
Murthy said sweeping lockdowns suffer from diminishing returns since they exacerbate the “pandemic fatigue” that led many to ignore advice against things such as large gatherings, despite the current daily coronavirus caseload for the country being more than double the number of cases seen during the peak of the summer surge, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The latest surge has led many states to reintroduce coronavirus restrictions and strengthened mask mandates. In Chicago, health officials told residents to “cancel traditional Thanksgiving” plans.
“We’ve got to approach this with a precision of a scalpel rather than the blunt force of an ax,” Murthy said. Instead of lockdowns, he emphasized providing sufficient resources to places like schools so they can remain open while complying with health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Murthy’s comments on Sunday echoed those of Atul Gawande, another member of Biden’s advisory board. Gawande told ABC’s This Week that the incoming administration should focus on improving national compliance with mask-wearing and ramping up testing.
“We are not in support of a nationwide lockdown,” Gawande said. “We can get this under control. The critical parts are understanding what we’ve learned since we did a nationwide lockdown in early April. And that is, that you can have targeted measures building on mask-wearing to include widespread testing, to include dialing up and down capacity restrictions, and those measures need to happen in a more localized basis.”