Biden COVID-19 adviser floats plan to pay for national lockdown lasting up to six weeks
A top health adviser to President-elect Joe Biden suggested that the nation is well-positioned financially to withstand a lockdown of more than a month in an effort to get the coronavirus pandemic under control.
“When you look at the personal savings rate in this country, it’s now gone from about 8 percent to over 22 percent. 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 our losses to small companies to medium sized companies, for city states, county governments. We could do all of that,” said Michael Osterholm during a live event this week with Yahoo News.
Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said there are varying ideas in terms of public perception of “what a lockdown is all about.”
“If we did that, then we could lock down for four to six weeks,” he said. “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.”
Biden, who was projected as the winner of the 2020 presidential election on Saturday, has vowed to end the coronavirus pandemic and promised to “listen to the scientists” to get it under control.
On Monday, the former vice president unveiled his own coronavirus task force.
“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden said.
President Trump and his supporters have been critical of so-called lockdown measures, statewide stay-at-home orders meant to curb the spread of the virus.
With a second wave of infections sweeping across the nation, Biden has implored every American to wear a mask and practice social distancing, calling it “patriotic” to do so.
Trump, meanwhile, has boasted about his response to the virus and during the final days of the campaign told supporters the country was “round the corner” and the pandemic would soon disappear.
Pfizer this week revealed it had developed a vaccine candidate that is more than 90 percent effective and is seeking FDA approval in the coming weeks.
“First of all, be prepared to hit the ground running on Jan. 20,” Osterholm said. “And No. 2, in the meantime, even though not in control of the government, as such, what can we pull together and share with the states and cities out there that have often been left to their own devices, in terms of trying to respond to this pandemic so that in fact, that that kind of information and support can be there.”