As 50,000 scientists and doctors sign an open letter against lockdowns, Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not try to impose a nationwide lockdown. He went on to say that a nationwide mask mandate is not out of the question.
“No national shutdown. No national shutdown, because every region, every area, every community can be different. And so there’s no circumstance which I can see would require a total national shutdown. I think that would be counterproductive,” Biden told reporters in Delaware after a virtual meeting with governors.
Biden said in August that he would be willing to back a national shutdown if scientists recommended it.
“I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives. Because we cannot get the country moving until we control the virus,” he told ABC News at the time.
One of Biden’s pandemic advisers said this month that a lockdown of four- to six-weeks could control the virus.
“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. We could do all of that,” Dr. Michael Osterholm told Yahoo. “If we did that, then we could lockdown for four-to-six weeks.”
Biden and Osterholm’s comments came as leading scientists and medical practitioners from around the world have signed a petition against lockdown measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, saying that they are causing “irreparable damage.”
As of Nov. 20, at least 35,236 medical practitioners and 12,115 medical and public health scientists have joined more than 638,920 members of the general public in signing the petition, which was created on Oct. 4 and co-authored by Harvard professor of medicine Dr. Martin Kulldorff, Oxford professor Dr. Sunetra Gupta, and Stanford Medical School professor Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.
Although a winner has not been officially determined from the Nov. 3 election (that happens Dec. 14), the Biden team has been creating national policy on from everything from green energy, Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate Accords, to national health policy.
After the backlash to comments from the Biden team, Osterholm said a nationwide shutdown wouldn’t happen because it wouldn’t be supported by members of Congress and other Biden health advisers said a more targeted approach would be better.
Biden told reporters Thursday that he was answering a hypothetical question in August.
“The answer was I would follow the science. I am not going to shut down the economy, period. I’m going to shut down the virus. That’s what I’m going to shut down,” he said.
“But there are constraints in which the degree to which businesses can be open. For example, it’s one thing to say that you can have, in a state where their infection rate is not as high, you can have a gymnasium open. It’s another thing to say it can only be open four hours a day with X number of people. The church I go to, my Catholic church, they don’t allow more than 40 percent of the people to come into the church. Those are rational decisions. It’s not shutting down everything. It’s calibrating based on what the threat is,” he added.
Biden also said he discussed what he described as a national mask mandate with governors.
Around the world, scientists are warning governments of the research they’ve done on the ineffectiveness of lockdowns.
The petition calls for an end to current lockdown policies, saying that they are producing “devastating effects” on short- and long-term public health.
Some of these devastating effects, the doctors write, include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings, and deteriorating mental health. They argue that this will, in the future, lead to greater excess mortality, with the working class and younger generation “carrying the heaviest burden.”
“Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice,” the doctors write. “Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.”
As for masks, ten governors have imposed masking requirements while other states are reimposing a lockdown. Biden has not publicly commented on the new California lockdown.