Op-Ed by Wendi Strauch-Mahoney
Dr. Michael Osterholm, the current Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research Policy at the University of Minnesota, has been chosen for the CoronaVirus task force in the event of a Biden/Harris administration. On Monday, CNBC reported that Osterholm would sit on an advisory board for a Biden administration.
In an interview with MSNBC on November 10, Osterholm's message was that Americans were facing the "darkest months" ahead due to "pandemic fatigue." In a November 12 article written by CNBC health and science contributor Will Feuer, an article was referenced that Osterholm co-wrote with Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari that included the two arguing in favor of more restrictive and uniform lockdowns nationwide.
In an article in The New York Times, they said, “The problem with the March-to-May lockdown was that it was not uniformly stringent across the country. For example, Minnesota deemed 78 percent of its workers essential. To be effective, the lockdown has to be as comprehensive and strict as possible.”
Osterholm recommended that, with federal assistance, a nationwide lockdown of 4-6 weeks "would drive the number of new cases and hospitalizations down to manageable levels while the world awaits a vaccine." He proposed a package that would cover "all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers, for losses to small companies, to medium-sized companies or city, state, county governments. We could do all of that." It is important to note that no one from the Biden campaign has confirmed they would proceed that way. Osterholm also walked back his statement saying he never discussed his viewpoint with them and that no one would support it. "It’s not going to be supported out of the administration. It’s not going to be supported in Congress," he said.
Coincidentally, Biden also mentioned a "dark winter" during his final debate with President Trump, making it more plausible to believe that severe national mandates and lockdowns could be coming with a Biden administration. It's a concept that strikes fear in the hearts of those who have lost their livelihoods and, in some cases, their loved ones. Unnecessarily radical lockdowns may have caused more problems than the virus itself to most of the population, and nine months into the pandemic, individual states are beginning to resist tyrannical lockdowns. A Maine Policy Institute paper details the catastrophic consequences of societal shutdowns.
As recent as four days ago, former Vice President Joe Biden mentioned the "dark winter" again in his announcement of the task force. A Bloomberg article reported that his plans include a centralized "cohesive national strategy" to contain the virus as well as a call to mandate national masking. These policies seem to signal a move away from states' control over Coronavirus measures that President Trump has been favoring.
Independent reporter, Alex Berenson has also been leading the charge on the unintended consequences of severe nationwide lockdowns since March. A recent post references the rise in juvenile suicides due to the lockdown, and children who just want their lives "to go back to normal."
Back in the spring, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEneny reinforced President Trump's belief that "there are consequences that run the other way when we stay closed down as a country." President Trump has been quite clear since April that the states should be in charge of most Coronavirus mandates.
States like New York, under the purview of Governor Cuomo (D-NY), are moving into more stringent lockdowns. Fox News reported that former Lt. Governor of New York Betsy McCaughey called Cuomo a "petty tyrant" and stated that there is "no science behind the coronavirus lockdowns." She also gave an interview on Fox's Varney & Co where she stated, "The governor is pushing New York into absolute economic destruction, already with an infection rate well below the national average. New York's unemployment rate is nearly double the national average, and it leads the nation in business failures."
August numbers showed the New York state economy has suffered significantly due to the lockdown policies there. Indicators like the unemployment rate and the Housing Hardship Index were among the data that pointed to difficult times ahead. As of the last New York State Labor Department release in October, the unemployment rate was listed at 9.7 percent. Statista.com lists the October 2019 to October 2020 "seasonally-adjusted national unemployment rate" at 6.9 percent.
On Thursday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot asked citizens there to stay home except for essentials, stop having guests over (including family members who reside elsewhere), avoid non-essential travel and cancel traditional Thanksgiving plans.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker likewise said at a coronavirus briefing in Chicago on Thursday, “If things don’t take a turn in the coming days, we will quickly reach the point when some form of a mandatory stay-at-home order is all that will be left.” He added, “With every fiber of my being, I do not want us to get there. But right now, that seems like where we are heading.”
November 6 CDC statistics indicate that the "overall cumulative COVID-19-associated hospitalization rate through the week ending Oct. 31, was 207.1 hospitalizations per 100,000 population." On Thursday, Trump administration Covid Task Force advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said he does "not favor a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19." And by December, he continued, "the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are expected to be available to individuals most at risk, such as frontline health care workers. The Pfizer vaccine may be 90 percent effective according to clinical studies and will be increasingly available in the first half of 2021." Fauci said, with the vaccine, "help is on the way."
With deaths decreasing and a survival rate that has been reported to be as high as 99.94 percent, whether or not the American electorate will agree to policies that ignore the deleterious consequences of national mandates and lockdowns comes into question.
The President held a press conference today in the Rose Garden at the White House and gave an update on Operation Warp Speed. He discussed the new Pfizer vaccine that they are planning to have available to the most at-risk in December with a widespread availability potentially by April 2021. Trump also mentioned that his Administration will not have a nationwide lockdown mandate. The full press conference can be found here.