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Biden Adviser's Lockdown Idea Is Met With Pushback

Anthony Fauci is among those saying it probably isn't necessary
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 13, 2020 9:00 AM CST
Biden Adviser Causes a Fuss With Lockdown Talk
President-elect Joe Biden speaks Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(Newser) – A member of Joe Biden's COVID advisory team has already stirred up controversy by advocating a national lockdown of up to 6 weeks. But after pushback—including from Anthony Fauci—adviser Michael Osterholm is now making clear he hasn't discussed this with anyone in the future Biden administration. Here's what happened:

  • The adviser: Osterholm is director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research, per Minnesota Public Radio, and he has been publicly warning of late about a looming winter of "COVID hell." It's a theme he's been pushing for a while, as seen in this August op-ed in the New York Times. He took things further in a Wednesday interview with Yahoo Finance.
  • The advice: The government should shut down businesses and pay people to stay home, he told Yahoo. "We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the lost wages for individual workers, for losses to small companies, to medium-sized companies or city, state, county governments," he said. "If we did that, then we could lock down for four to six weeks and if we did that, we could drive the numbers down."

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  • The fallout: The idea has met with swift criticism. The conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, for example, says it would be catastrophic. "Targeted restrictions" in hot spots can make sense, but a national lockdown is another. "Lockdowns don’t crush the virus," write the editors. "They merely delay its spread until the lockdowns end." And in the meantime, businesses go bankrupt and the economy goes belly up.
  • Fauci's view: The criticism isn't only from conservatives. Fauci has been pushing back as well, saying a lockdown might cause more harm than good in terms of people's overall health. "You can get a lot done without necessarily locking down if you adhere to the fundamental principles that many of us, myself included, have been talking about for quite a while now," Fauci tells Sinclair Broadcast Group. He's referring to masks, social distancing, etc. "If you do those things uniformly throughout the country, not in a scattered way—some do it, some don't—but as a nation, buckle down and respond, we can turn this around."
  • Walking it back: Osterholm clarified to ABC News Thursday night that he hasn't spoken to Biden or anyone else on the team about his lockdown suggestion. “Nobody’s going to support it," he added. "It’s not going to be supported out of the administration. It’s not going to be supported in Congress."
  • Biden's view: CNN's Jake Tapper pressed Biden communications chief Kate Bedingfield on whether Biden himself is considering such a lockdown. She didn't explicitly rule it out but said Biden is instead focused on increasing mask use and boosting tests. "Is he taking advice? Is he hearing from the best public health experts who are advising him?" she said, per the New York Post. "Of course, and he’s taking that into account. But he’s put forward really aggressive plans that he intends to implement in order to get the virus under control."
  • Numbers: The US on Thursday surpassed 150,000 new daily cases for the first time. By Johns Hopkins University's count, we were at 153,496 for the day, reports CNN.
(Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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