November 13, 2020 -- A member of President-elect Joe Biden's coronavirus task force said Thursday that she doesn’t think a nationwide lockdown is needed to bring the virus under control if the public will embrace preventive measures.
“In a lockdown a lot of measures are curtailed that don’t need to be curtailed,” Luciana Borio, MD, said during a discussion at the Washington National Cathedral. “The public is tired and confused about what needs to be done.”
Borio, a former FDA official, also said messaging from the federal government could be improved.
“We have not seen across the government clear communications,” she said.
Borio’s comments echoed those of Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who also spoke at the event. Fauci said a lockdown is an option that should be left “on the table” if the pandemic keeps surging.
“We can turn this around without locking the country down,” he said. “We need to double down on public health measures” such as mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing.
“I was talking with my UK colleagues who are saying the UK is similar to where we are now because each of our countries have that independent spirit,” Fauci said on stage. “I can understand that, but now is the time to do what you’re told.”
He said more people may be encouraged to adopt those measures because of news that a coronavirus vaccine is likely to be available by the end of the year.
Fauci said a hard-core group of people will simply refuse to receive any vaccine. There’s a larger group that has been given misinformation about safety measures in developing the vaccine, he said.
“I don’t think people who are anti-vax know how transparent that process is,” he said. “We need to reach out to them…It’s to their benefit and the benefit of society to get vaccinated.”
Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health, said government health officials are working to overcome “vaccine hesitancy” in the public.
He hoped that the clear explanation of why a vaccine is safe will convince people to be vaccinated.
“Look at the data,” Collins said. “Tell me why you don’t want to take advantage of something that may protect you and your family from a terrible disease.”
Fauci said he strongly disagrees with people who think “herd immunity” is the best strategy to conquer the coronavirus pandemic.
The CDC estimates 10% of the nation has been infected, Fauci said; the current death toll is over 241,000. Reaching herd immunity would require about 70% of the nation to be infected, meaning the death toll might multiply several times to achieve that level.
“It’s not feasible, and it’s not acceptable,” he said.
President-elect Biden himself has not weighed in on the lockdown issue. Another member of his task force, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, has walked back his assertion that a lockdown is needed.
“I’ve never discussed any of this with them,” Osterholm told ABC News. Later adding, “Nobody’s going to support it. It’s not going to be supported out of the administration. It’s not going to be supported in Congress."