A national coronavirus lockdown would be 'the absolute last resort,' Democratic senator says

In an interview with Yahoo Finance, Dr. Michael Osterholm, a member of President-Elect Joe Biden’s 12-person coronavirus task force, floated the idea of a four- to six-week lockdown to bring the coronavirus to heel.

The virus that has killed around 250,000 people in the U.S. is on track to hit 150,000 new cases per day by the end of the week.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), in a separate interview with Yahoo Finance, said a lockdown would be “the absolute last resort” and suggested an array of priorities to fight the pandemic.

Osterholm said the U.S. should pay businesses during a lockdown to keep them whole while they’re shut down, and that these measures would starve the virus and put the U.S. in a much better position for future reopening and an economic rebound.

This is in line with what some countries in Europe are doing now, including the U.K., Germany and France, but Brown’s labeling of these measures as a last resort illustrates the lack of consensus from Democrats on how to confront the virus.

Photo by: STRF/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 11/11/20 Atmosphere in New York City. Wooden Barricades are slowly being removed from store-fronts, now that Joe Biden has won the election and fears of property destruction have diminished. Many stores display 'For Lease' Signs as small businesses continue to suffer due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Others try to welcome in customers and safeguard them from the virus.
Atmosphere in New York City. Photo by: STRF/STAR MAX/IPx

If there were to be a nationwide lockdown, Brown said, it would have “to be accompanied by a major coronavirus package.”

“You can’t expect businesses to survive, workers to survive… you can’t do that without help,” he said.

Already, many cities and states have begun to tighten policies related to gathering, travel, and business hours. This week New York City implemented a closure for businesses with liquor licenses to close at 10 pm, and on Thursday Chicago issued a stay-at-home advisory while restricting social gatherings to 10 people. Many states have enacted mandatory quarantine periods for out-of-state travelers, a move that stands to complicate theThanksgiving holiday for some.

The main priorities for Brown and likely other Democrats advising Biden: tests, contact tracing, scaling up of PPE manufacturing using the Defense Production Act, and more recovery packages.

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And, Brown added, a unified message on social distancing and mask adherence is needed. Had the U.S. adopted this policy from the outset, the country would have avoided much of the disaster.

“Imagine where we'd be today,” he said. “People would be back at work. Our kids would be back at school. Tens of thousands of people would still be alive. We can't miss that opportunity again and not do it right.”

Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, personal finance, retail, airlines, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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