Michael Osterholm

Telling People to Wear ‘Masks and Wash Your Hands Isn't Enough,' Says Biden's COVID Advisory Board Member

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

KEY POINTS

  • President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board member Michael Osterholm emphasized that Americans would receive government support in the case of a shutdown.
  • Governors and mayors across the country have been ramping up COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic sweeps across the nation, with cases on the rise in 47 states
  • Osterholm explains the need for a uniform approach in combatting the pandemic

In a Tuesday evening interview on "The News with Shepard Smith," President-elect Joe Biden's coronavirus advisory board member Michael Osterholm emphasized that Americans would receive government support in the case of a shutdown. 

"If we're going to ask anyone in America, whether it's an individual or company, to close down or to lose a job because we want them to distance so that we can stop this pandemic, we have to understand that we have to take care of them," said Osterholm.

Governors and mayors across the country have been ramping up COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic sweeps across the nation, with cases on the rise in 47 states. The U.S. seven-day average of daily new COVID infections surpassed 150,000 for the first time on Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data. The current record of nearly 155,000 new infections per day marks the 10th straight day of about 30% growth or higher in that seven-day trend.

The numbers of Americans in hospitals is the highest ever recorded with more than 73,000 COVID-19 patients on Monday, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project

Osterholm highlighted the need for a set of national standards to help states combat the coronavirus pandemic. He explained that part of that meant understanding what measures actually make a difference. For example, Osterholm said that he had not seen data that closing bars at 10 p.m. is more helpful than not closing them at all. 

"The economy will shut down on its own if we see this uncontrolled transmission," said the infectious disease expert. "If our healthcare facilities start to fail, if people begin dying in emergency room waiting rooms after 10 hours of waiting to get a room, you're going to see people then, at that point, refusing to go into public at all, and that's what's really going to have the ultimate impact on the economy." 

Host Shepard Smith noted measures that were proven to work, such as New York City's closure of bars and restaurants in March and Belgium's lockdown that started Nov. 2. Osterholm agreed with Smith that not enough is currently being done in the United States to stem the spread of the virus.

"I've been saying for some time that saying, 'masks and wash your hands' is not enough," said Osterholm. "At the same time, we want to do what really is going to make an impact, and I think the European experience is a very important one."

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