As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread throughout the U.S. despite mask mandates and social distancing measures, more than 150 medical experts, scientists and other health professionals signed a letter organized by a prominent consumer group and delivered to government leaders Thursday calling for new shutdowns to bring case counts down and “hit the reset button” to implement a more effective response.
The letter, which was organized by consumer group U.S. PIRG and sent to the Trump administration, congressional leaders and state governors, urges leaders to “shut it down now and start over,” saying the government must “take bold action to save lives.”
The signatories call for closing all non-essential businesses and opening restaurants for takeout only, with Americans leaving their houses “only to get food and medicine or to exercise and get fresh air.”
The letter also says interstate travel should be shut down to keep the virus from spreading from state to state.
The lockdowns should continue “until case numbers recede to a level at which we have the capacity to effectively test and trace,” at which point “we can try a little more opening, one small step at a time.”
“If you don’t take these actions, the consequences will be measured in widespread suffering and death,” the signatories write.
“Right now we are on a path to lose more than 200,000 American lives by November 1st. Yet, in many states people can drink in bars, get a haircut, eat inside a restaurant, get a tattoo, get a massage, and do myriad other normal, pleasant, but non-essential activities,” the letter notes. “The best thing for the nation is not to reopen as quickly as possible, it’s to save as many lives as possible.”
70,106: The number of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. recorded on July 23, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Government leaders have been hesitant to reimpose lockdown measures as coronavirus cases have surged, opting instead for mask mandates and targeted closures of bars or other indoor activities. Though some leaders have suggested recently that new lockdown measures could be coming if the situation does not improve, including in Los Angeles and Miami, shutdowns have been positioned as a last resort that states and localities hope to avoid. “Make very clear: We do not want to shut down again,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on CNBC Friday. “The only way we can go about the process of not shutting down is for people to embrace…wearing a face mask.” While there are signs that cases in hard-hit states like Texas are plateauing as a result of mask mandates, however, experts told the Texas Tribune that shutdowns—which studies have shown are effective in reducing case counts and saving lives—could still be necessary to actually bring cases down. “I understand that there’s an enormously difficult set of tradeoffs that have to be navigated when you contemplate locking the economy down,” statistics professor James Scott, a member of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, told the Tribune. “But I think it would be premature to rule out the possibility of subsequent lockdowns if things got really, really bad.”
SHUT IT DOWN, START OVER, DO IT RIGHT (U.S. PIRG)