A coronavirus adviser to President-elect Joe Biden believes closing businesses nationally for four to six weeks could help the United States enter the “Covid Hell”.
Dr. Michael Osterholm said Wednesday that a national lockdown might be the best way to keep hospital stays and deaths across the country to a minimum until a vaccine can be distributed.
He claims the country's economy will not suffer if enough money is borrowed to pay wages during the shutdowns.
Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, is one of the public health experts the Biden Transition Team has appointed to its advisory board.
Biden says the advisory board "will help shape my approach to dealing with the surge in reported infections".
It comes from the fact that hospital stays and coronavirus infections hit daily highs in the US, although deaths are still about half what they peaked in April.
On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo already started cutting bars and restaurants opening hours and ordered them to close daily at 10 p.m. from this Friday if cases increase in the state.
This graph shows the infection rates in major US states compared to major Western European countries, with Wisconsin currently having a higher infection rate than France, Spain or the UK
Coronavirus patients occupy the largest percentage of hospital beds of any state in North and South Dakota, data from Health and Human Services shows, although they do tend to lag and North Dakota now says hospitals will be 100% busy as of Wednesday
More than 70% of ICU beds are occupied in 34 states while hospitalizations are increasing
Dr. Michael Osterholm, who was appointed to Biden's COVID-19 task force on Monday, suggests that the US should adhere to a four to six week national embargo as it awaits a vaccine
However, Osterholm believes that a stricter national lockdown is needed, with uniform restrictions in place in each state, if the surge in cases is to be tackled.
He told Yahoo News that cases are increasing as the cold weather forces more people indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.
It also happens when people suffer from "pandemic fatigue" and get tired of wearing masks and social distancing, he suggested.
“We could now pay for a package to cover all wages, lost wages for individual workers for losses to small businesses to medium-sized companies or city, state and district governments. We could do all of this, ”he said, according to CNBC.
"If we did that, we could lock up for four to six weeks."
He also referred to a New York Times authored by himself and Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari in August, in which they advocated a broader national lockdown.
& # 39; The problem with the March-May lockdown was that it was not consistently strict across the country. For example, Minnesota considered 78 percent of its workers essential, ”they wrote.
"To be effective, the lockdown must be as comprehensive and strict as possible."
Osterholm suggested on Wednesday that such a lockdown would align the US with New Zealand and Australia, where new daily cases have been reduced to under ten cases.
"We really saw how we moved towards vaccine availability in the first and second quarters of next year while getting the economy back on track well in advance," he said.
However, Osterholm suggested that the country would have worse days ahead if these types of measures were not taken.
He spoke of places like El Paso, Texas, where officials have already closed stores because the health system is overwhelmed.
President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden honors military veterans with a stop at the Philadelphia Korean War Memorial in Penn & # 39; s Landing on Veterans Day on Wednesday
Osterholm said Wednesday that a national lockdown could be the best way to minimize hospital stays and deaths across the country until a vaccine can be distributed. A nearly empty Times Square pictured during New York City's first lockdown in March 2020
Osterholm, who was on the Biden task force announced by the transition team on Monday, said: “People don't want to hear that El Paso is not an isolated incident.
"El Paso is becoming the norm in many cases," he added, directing Biden as the person to explain this to the American people.
“I think the message is how we can get through this. We need FDR moments now. We need fireside chats. We need someone to tell America, "This the hell is going to happen," he said.
Earlier this week, Osterholm suggested that the country will go to the 'Covid Hell' if it doesn't take action to address the emerging cases soon.
He said the next three to four months will be the darkest time for the pandemic, provided the new daily cases continue to hit well over 100,000.
"What America needs to understand is that we are on the verge of Hell from Covid," he told CNBC. & # 39; It happens. & # 39;
"We are not even close to the summit and as such our hospitals are now being overrun," added Osterholm. "The next three to four months will be by far the darkest of the pandemic."
President-elect Biden has also spoken of the need to take action before a vaccine is distributed as state officials have raised concerns about the logistical problems associated with distributing the vaccine once one is ready.
"It is clear that even if this vaccine is approved, it will not be widely used for many months," Biden said Monday. "The challenge we are facing right now is still immense and growing."
Massive vaccination campaigns are nothing new, but eradicating COVID-19 is a new challenge due to a number of factors: the short timeframe to vaccinate large numbers of people, the logistics of shipping cans to all parts of the country and exactly that low temperature (-94F) at which some vaccines need to be stored.
The federal government's efforts to distribute the vaccine are being led by the Department of Health's Operation Warp Speed and affect both the CDC and the Department of Defense.
While distribution occurs at the federal level, state and local health care providers are responsible for storing and administering the vaccines once they are delivered.
President-elect Joe Biden has also suggested that action should be taken to stop the surge in cases as it could take months for a vaccine to be distributed across the country
How states reintroduce lockdown measures
CALIFORNIA: In a tiered system, hard-hit areas like Los Angeles County have the toughest restrictions as people are urged to stay home and bars, restaurants and gyms are closed even though LA parks and golf courses are still open.
CONNECTICUT: The reopening of phase 2 of the state has been changed to a so-called phase 2.1, which means that restaurants have to stop table service at 9.30 p.m. and private gatherings have been reduced to 10 people.
IDAHO: Under a health ordinance signed on October 27, outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 percent of maximum capacity and indoor gatherings are limited to 50 people. Customers have to stay seated in bars and restaurants.
ILLINOIS: A regional system of “mitigation measures” has now been applied across the state, with no indoor service in bars or restaurants which also has to close at 11pm. Meetings are limited to 25 people.
NEW MEXICO: The retail store must be closed until 10 p.m. while food and beverage companies cannot offer more than 25 percent of their maximum capacity for indoor meals.
NEW YORK: Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new measures on Wednesday, which means bars and restaurants as well as gyms will have to close at 10 p.m. The rules apply to both New York City and New York State.
State officials have now sought preparations after the CDC asked states to have plans to begin administering a vaccine as early as November 15.
These officials said they had only a few weeks to prepare for extensive efforts after only learning about specific storage requirements in mid-October, including the need to store at least one vaccine in frozen conditions.
Claire Hannan, who is the executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers and helps states implement vaccination programs, sent one of her colleagues an exploding head emoji when asked how they would implement the vaccine adoption.
& # 39; These challenges are so unprecedented. I have nothing to compare, ”Hannan told CNN.
Osterholm commented on the need for a national lockdown as the US set records for hospital stays and cases. The number of patients rose to 61,000 and the daily infections to 136,000.
According to data from the COVID Tracking Project, 61,964 people were treated for COVID-19 in hospitals across the country on Tuesday.
This toll exceeded the daily high of 59,780 hospital admissions in April at the height of the first coronavirus wave and the high of 59,718 hospital stays in July.
Infections across the country hit a record high of 136,325 cases on Tuesday. Cases have soared since the beginning of October, with the 7-day moving average for cases now standing at more than 118,000.
Despite the huge increase in cases and hospitalizations, the number of Americans dying from COVID-19 is not increasing at the same rate.
The seven-day moving average for deaths is currently just under 1,000 per day and is at its highest level since August. The daily deaths on Tuesday stood at 1,420.
However, deaths, which are a trailing indicator and can potentially increase weeks after infection, are still lower than the highest 2,000 deaths per day in April.
This new wave seems bigger and more widespread than the waves that occurred in spring and summer – and it threatens to get worse.
The spike in cases can be attributed, at least in part, to an increase in testing. Hospital stays are a key variable for the pandemic because, unlike case numbers, it doesn't rise and fall with the number of tests performed.
According to data from the COVID Tracking Project, 61,964 people were treated for COVID-19 in hospitals across the country on Tuesday. This toll exceeded the previous daily high of 59,780 hospital admissions, which were already recorded in April at the height of the first coronavirus wave
Empty storefronts in downtown El Paso, Texas are in late October as the city reports a record number of active coronavirus cases and the healthcare system is overwhelmed
While the death toll could still potentially go up as it takes time for people to get sick and die, doctors believe the death toll may not be as high as it was in the first waves as doctors now know better how to treat severe cases, which means higher percentages of COVID. 19 patients going to intensive care units come out alive.
Patients will also benefit from new treatments, namely remdesivir, the steroid dexamethasone, and an antibody drug that was approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration this week.
Health officials have warned that if hospitals are overwhelmed, patients could die.
Researchers predict that if most Americans wear masks and social distancing, 63 million lives could be saved.
Health Secretary Alex Azar said makeshift hospitals are being set up to treat people whose health systems are nearly overwhelmed, including in the Midwest and California.
Several states saw record numbers of cases Tuesday, including over 12,600 new cases in Illinois, 10,800 in Texas, and 7,000 in Wisconsin. Texas is now the first state to have more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases.
California and several states in the Midwest have now started tightening restrictions on residents.
New York is also seeing a surge, with Governor Cuomo making efforts on Wednesday to stave off the "second wave" of COVID-19, although deaths and hospitalizations in New York City are steady.
Not only is Cuomo forcing bars and restaurants to close until 10 p.m., but also restricting private home gatherings to 10 people and saying he can reduce the capacity of indoor restaurants and bars if the number persists.
The nationwide COVID-19 rate rose to 2.9 percent. This is its highest level in months, and deaths are increasing in some parts of the state, but not all.
In New York City, deaths have remained constant despite the rising infection rate.
This is another blow to the restaurant and bar industry, which was only allowed to dine indoors at 25 percent capacity last month after being ignored for months.
Cuomo said during his press conference that anyone who fails to comply with the new order will receive a subpoena asking them to shut down the company.
“Losing money hurts, but money can be replaced. Losing a loved one is forever. When the lights are on and the people are drinking they get a summons, ”he said.
Eating outdoors can continue into the winter months when restaurants and bars allow.
Mayor Bill de Blasio repeated Cuomo's alarm tone on Wednesday, saying: “This is our last chance to stop a second wave. We can do it, but we have to act NOW. & # 39;
Many states have seen a worrying surge ahead of the holiday season as health officials warn that people in different households should not celebrate Thanksgiving together indoors unless masks are always worn.
Even then, they suggest holding meetings outdoors as much as possible.
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