Sun, 20 Sep 2020

Children play on the Charging Bull in New York, the United States, July 29, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

The imperative for a more restrictive lockdown is clear because "what we have done so far hasn't worked," said the official.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Neel Kashkari has called for "a more restrictive lockdown" for up to six weeks to crush the spread of COVID-19, as the "viral fire" continues to "rage out of control."

In a Friday New York Times opinion piece he authored with Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, the Fed official argued that the imperative for a more restrictive lockdown is clear because "what we have done so far hasn't worked."

"Some 160,000 people have died, and in recent days, roughly a thousand have died a day. An estimated 30 million Americans are collecting unemployment," Kashkari and Osterholm noted.

Passengers are seen at Penn Station in New York, the United States, on Aug. 6, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

As of Saturday night, the United States has reported nearly 5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The country hit the 3 million mark on July 8, and then hit 4 million on July 23.

"The next six months could make what we have experienced so far seem like just a warm-up to a greater catastrophe," Kashkari and Osterholm wrote. "With many schools and colleges starting, stores and businesses reopening, and the beginning of the indoor heating season, new case numbers will grow quickly," they said.

Reflecting on the failure of U.S. COVID-19 containment response compared with many nations in Asia and Europe, the authors argued that their country gave up on lockdown efforts to control virus transmission "well before the virus was under control."

Photo taken on Aug. 5, 2020 shows the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington D.C., the United States. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

Since late April, U.S. states -- many without seeing a significant downward trend in COVID-19 infections -- started to fully or partially reopen their economies. As of late May, all states had already been in some phase of reopening.

Just a few weeks after that, many states, especially those in the south and west, saw an uptick in COVID-19 cases, which then prompted over 20 states to pause or reverse their reopening plans.

Kashkari and Osterholm urged policymakers to commit to a more restrictive lockdown, state by state, for up to six weeks to crush the spread of the virus to less than one new case per 100,000 people per day, whereas the country currently reports 17 new cases per 100,000 people a day.

To successfully drive down the case rate, "we should mandate sheltering in place for everyone but the truly essential workers," they argued.

Customers are seen at the outdoor dining area of a restaurant at SoHo in New York, the United States, on July 30, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

"By that, we mean people must stay at home and leave only for essential reasons: food shopping and visits to doctors and pharmacies while wearing masks and washing hands frequently," they said, noting that "to be effective, the lockdown has to be as comprehensive and strict as possible."

"If we aren't willing to take this action, millions more cases with many more deaths are likely before a vaccine might be available," Kashkari and Osterholm said.

"In addition, the economic recovery will be much slower, with far more business failures and high unemployment for the next year or two," they said. "The path of the virus will determine the path of the economy. There won't be a robust economic recovery until we get control of the virus."

"There is no trade-off between health and the economy. Both require aggressively getting control of the virus," they added. ■

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