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Here’s what Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force thinks about lockdowns

Published Nov 13th, 2020 8:04PM EST
Image: Chansom Pantip/Adobe

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  • An advisor to President-elect Joe Biden made headlines this week for suggesting that a nationwide coronavirus lockdown of at least one month is needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A few members of the Biden coronavirus task force, however, shot that idea down, saying that a more targeted approach is better than a widespread, nationwide coronavirus lockdown.
  • One member of the Biden coronavirus task force said an approach like a light switch dimmer rather than an on/off switch is what’s needed.

Dr. David Nabarro, a “special envoy” of the World Health Organization’s director-general, said in an interview with the British magazine The Spectator, published in October, that restrictions like coronavirus lockdowns to fight the pandemic should really only be a last resort — if even that. It was a remarkable reversal for the WHO, which had months prior talked up lockdowns as unavoidable in some parts of the world in order to control the spread of the virus.

Now, with President-elect Joe Biden set to move into the White House a little over two months from now, his coronavirus task force is making headlines over renewed fears about the imposition of lockdowns. Specifically, it was Biden coronavirus advisor Dr. Michael Osterholm who pressed the issue, declaring that the policy of a nationwide lockdown in the US lasting from one month to a month-and-a-half (along with wage subsidies to make up what people lose from work) would be a great idea for a controlling the COVID pandemic (Narrator: No, it’s not).

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For proof, look no further than … the rest of Biden’s coronavirus task force.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, a top member of the task force, said Friday on ABC’s Good Morning America that a widespread national lockdown would actually be counter-productive — and that what we need instead are more “targeted restrictions.”

“We’re not in a place where we’re saying shut the whole country down,” Murthy said. “We’ve got to be more targeted. If we don’t do that, what you’re going to find is that people will become even more fatigued. Schools won’t be open to children and the economy will be hit harder. So we’ve got to follow science, but we’ve also got to be more precise.”

It seems that this is the prevailing opinion of Biden’s task force itself, per another member of it who spoke about which way the group is leaning in an interview with CNBC. “I think of this as a dimmer switch, not an on-and-off light switch,” task force member Dr. Celine Gounder said.

“As a group, really the consensus is that we need a more nuanced approach. We can be much more targeted geographically. We can also be more targeted in terms of what we close.”

Osterholm, for his part, has walked back his comments, telling one news outlet that his idea for a national lockdown was neither a recommendation nor a formal idea he presented to Biden’s group. Nevertheless, an unnamed Biden transition official decided it was worth reiterating to NBC News that a shutdown of that kind “is not in line with the president-elect’s thinking.”

On Friday, the president-elect himself shared an updated statement about COVID-19, which comes as states and cities around the country are tightening restrictions again and moving back toward localized lockdowns ahead of what scientists warn is the US entering the “darkest days of the pandemic.”

Biden’s statement reads, in part:

“Today, I renew my call for every American, regardless of where they live or who they voted for, to step up and do their part on social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing to protect themselves and to protect others. I understand it’s not easy. I know people are tired. But this will not go on forever. We are moving toward a vaccine. We are improving our ability to test. We are developing better treatments. We can get through this — and come out the other side stronger.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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