Dr. Vivek Murthy, a top coronavirus adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, said on Sunday a national lockdown of businesses and schools is a “measure of last resort” and that any lockdown that would occur now would look different than those of the spring.
“In the spring we didn’t know a lot about COVID, we responded, in a sense, with an on-off switch,” Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general, said in an appearance on Fox News Sunday. “We just shut things down because we didn’t know exactly how this was spreading and where it was spreading, but we learned a lot more since then.”
Murthy’s comments come as the nation struggles with a third surge of coronavirus, with cases growing by 5 percent or more in 47 states as of Saturday, based on a weekly average, according to a CNBC analysis. The U.S. has seen a weekly average of 145,401 cases each day, a more than 33 percent increase over the week prior and a record high average, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
More patients are currently hospitalized with the virus than at any other point in the pandemic — 69,400 — according to the COVID Tracking Project.
A number of states and cities have begun instituting new coronavirus restrictions in light of the surge, including New Mexico, Oregon, and Chicago.
Some began to expect Biden would institute a nationwide lockdown as president after Dr. Michael Osterholm, also on Biden’s coronavirus transition advisory board, told Yahoo Finance last week that closing businesses for four to six weeks while paying people for lost wages could help bring down case numbers and create a more manageable situation for hospitals.
Osterholm, who serves as director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, later told NBC News his earlier comments were “not a recommendation.”
“I have never made this recommendation to Biden’s group. We’ve never talked about it,” he added.
However, a Biden transition official reportedly told NBC News that a shutdown “is not in line with the president-elect’s thinking.”
Another Biden coronavirus adviser, Dr. Atul Gawande, a professor of surgery and health policy at Harvard, echoed this, saying, “We are not in support of a nationwide lockdown.”
“You can have targeted measures building on mask wearing to include widespread testing, can include dialing up and down capacity restrictions, and those measures need to happen on a more localized basis,” Gawande told ABC’s This Week on Sunday.
Gawande noted New York’s micro-cluster strategy, in which the state has set restrictions in given areas dependent upon the level of coronavirus spread, as an example.
“On a zip code by zip code basis, you can deploy different restrictions in order to get the virus under control and it’s quite effective. We do not need to go into a nationwide, shelter-in-place shutdown,” he said.