Minnesota infectious disease expert calls for a second national lockdown

Minnesota infectious disease expert calls for a second national lockdown
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The director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota said in a new interview that a second wave of lockdowns would likely be necessary to stem the current outbreak of the coronavirus.

"If we want to be like other countries in the world that have successfully contained the virus, then we have got to take the medicine now," Michael Osterholm told NPR. "We will not get there unless we bring this virus level down again. And there's just no other way to do it literally but a kind of second lockdown. And this time let's get it right."

Osterholm pointed to the fact that European nations that imposed strict lockdowns have largely resumed in-person schooling and other activities.

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"Those countries that were on fire last spring and then did a lockdown are now the ones that have been successfully reopening," Osterholm told NPR. "Their economies are back, they're enjoying life — and they're still maintaining control over the virus."

Osterholm also said he was skeptical of projections by some experts that mask usage in public by 95 percent of the population could eliminate the need for lockdown measures.

"The degree to which masking will drop transmission has been unfortunately overstated substantially by a number of people,” he said, citing recent spikes in Hong Kong, where mask usage is far more widespread.

Caitlin Rivers of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health sounded a more optimistic note, telling the network that less strict lockdowns, if needed, could be effective in fighting the virus.

She pointed to states like Massachusetts that have equipped their public health workforce to deal with the virus and also said the data indicate outdoor spaces such as parks and playgrounds, which better allow for distancing, could stay open as long as visitors wear masks.

"We know more about the virus and how it spreads now than we did in the spring," Rivers told NPR. "So, I think, for jurisdictions that take steps backward toward closing — I don't think it will have to look like it did in the spring."