Recently-appointed COVID-19 adviser to President-elect Biden, Atul Gawande, said on ABC’s “This Week” that the virus can be controlled without Biden having to enact a nationwide lockdown.
“We are not in support of a nationwide lockdown,” Gawande told ABC host Martha Raddatz, “and believe…there simply isn’t a scenario because we can get this under control.”
According to Gawande, the country’s lack of a “national, comprehensive plan” has resulted in “disarray” and “confusing messages”.
Gawande said that the national response to COVID-19 will change once Biden assumes office, with a “clear voice from the top backing” a more unified plan to combat the virus.
“The critical parts are understanding what we’ve learned since we did a nationwide lockdown in early April. And that is that you can have targeted measures building on mask-wearing to include widespread testing, to include dialing up and down capacity restrictions, and those measures need to happen in a more localized basis.”
Gawande was announced as a new addition to Biden’s COVID-19 advisory team last week.
While the Biden team has distanced itself from a national lockdown, advisors and even Biden himself have flirted with the idea.
In August, Biden told “World News Tonight” that he would enact a national shutdown if scientists advised it.
“I would shut it down,” he said, when asked if he would enact a national lockdown if it was recommended by scientists. “I would listen to the scientists.”
Two weeks later, he clarified his comments after fierce pushback, saying that he doesn’t believe a national lockdown is necessary.
“There’s going to be no need, in my view, to be able to shut down the whole economy.”
And as recently as last week, another of Biden’s coronavirus advisers, Dr. Michael Osterholm, said that a 4-6 week national shutdown could be effective.
“We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers, for losses to small companies, to medium-sized companies or city, state, county governments,” said Osterholm. “We could do all of that. If we did that, then we could lock down for four to six weeks.”
Osterholm later clarified that the lockdown “was not a recommendation”, and a Biden transition official clarified that such a shutdown “is not in line with the president-elect’s thinking.”
Rather, Biden’s plan if he assumes office in January (as it likely appears he will) will be to enact a nationwide mask mandate.
“He’s been very clear that on Day 1, it’s to begin working with the states to institute mask mandates nationwide,” Gawande told NPR on Friday.
Many states – such as Washington, Oregon, California, and Wisconsin – are already enacting stricter lockdown measures ahead of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, citing the risks of indoor gatherings in the transmission of the virus.