With coronavirus numbers continuing to skyrocket, is the U.S. headed for a national lockdown?

coronavirus lockdown in the us
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The global pandemic reached new heights in late July, with 4 million people in the U.S. testing positive for the coronavirus, including 1 million in just a 15-day span, according to NPR. Many are wondering if this gigantic number of new cases is what will prompt a national coronavirus lockdown in the U.S. 

Earlier in the month, President Trump said there won’t be any need to close the country down. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci, Trump’s leading coronavirus expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a widespread lockdown might not be the solution that will slow down the coronavirus’ spread. But is that still the consensus, seven days later?

Analysts initially claimed that locking down an entire country’s economy would be too costly. Health experts like Fauci and Dr. Ali Khan, the former director of the CDC’s public health preparedness office, all reportedly agreed that there may be no need to implement a large-scale lockdown, provided that states can effectively test for coronavirus, follow up with contact tracing, and get the people to cooperate with precautionary measures like social distancing and wearing masks in public.

However, the increase in COVID-19 numbers have become so out of control by late July—according to NPR, more than 143,000 people have died from the virus in the U.S., which is nearly twice as many as Brazil, the country with the second-highest number of fatalities—that it may be time to reevaluate what’s being done to solve the country’s pandemic problems. 

Earlier in July, more than half of all U.S. states had either paused or rolled back on their plans to reopen, and experts and civilians had started to admit that maybe imposing loose safety measures might not be enough to curb the number of COVID-19 cases.

Will the coronavirus force a lockdown in the U.S.?

Prof. Richard H. Ebright, the laboratory director at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology and a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University, told BGR that a second U.S. lockdown is almost a foregone conclusion and that it may take a slew of tighter and longer state lockdowns in “possibly as early as August to September 2020” to get the virus under control.

According to the Harris Poll COVID-19 tracking survey for Week 21, even though the federal government has never issued an official stay-at-home order, more than two in five Americans now believe that a national lockdown is imminent, with one-third of the population thinking a shutdown will affect their community.

As the U.S. surpassed 4 million COVID-19 cases, physicians across the country raised awareness for how dire the hospitalization rate has become, especially in hotspots like parts of Florida. Intensive care units of more than 50 hospitals in the state are reportedly at full capacity, with only 15% of the ICU beds available.  “Any spike in cases or increase in hospitalizations is going to put our ER system and hospital systems in peril,” Dr. Damian Caraballo, an emergency room physician in Tampa, told CNN.

If those numbers aren’t enough to convince the American government to switch gears and push the reset button via a national lockdown, many are hoping that a concentrated public appeal will. More than 150 well-known U.S. medical experts, scientists, teachers, nurses, and others have reportedly signed a petition pushing for a country-wide shutdown, which includes a request for an increase in daily testing capacity, a workforce of contract tracers, and more personal protective equipment to keep essential workers adequately safe.

“We need that protocol in place until case numbers recede to a level at which we have the capacity to effectively test and trace. Then, and only then, we can try a little more opening, one small step at a time,” the open letter read. “You should bar non-essential interstate travel. When people travel freely between states, the good numbers in one state can go bad quickly. If you don’t take these actions, the consequences will be measured in widespread suffering and death.”

Sources: NPR, Reuters, CNBC, CNET, CNN, BGR, The Harris Poll, U.S. PIRG

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