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Medical experts urge political leaders to shut the country down and start over on COVID-19 response


Bad idea

The Double Decker, a popular karaoke bar, is seen closed in the Ybor City neighborhood on June 26 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

A group of medical experts believes state and national leaders should take the country back into lockdown and start from square one in trying to contain COVID-19, CNN reported.

Some states are just now starting to return to some level of normal activity, but as the total number of cases increase, some experts believe that's a sign that more lockdowns are needed, including the widespread closure of businesses that decimated the economy from March through May.

"Non-essential businesses should be closed. Restaurant service should be limited to take-out. People should stay home, going out only to get food and medicine or to exercise and get fresh air," the letter states. "Masks should be mandatory in all situations, indoors and outdoors, where we interact with others. 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 letter accuses politicians of not making good use of the time during the first lockdowns by increasing testing capacity and contact tracing capability to higher levels, even though U.S. testing has increased significantly over the past few months, and the U.S. is fourth in the world in per capita testing.

"In March, people went home and stayed there for weeks, to keep themselves and their neighbors safe," the letter reads. "You didn't use the time to set us up to defeat the virus. And then you started to reopen anyway, and too quickly."

The letter calls for the U.S. to have the testing capacity to test every person with flu-like symptoms, as well as at least 10 people for every symptomatic person to account for those they may have been in close contact with before reopening. The letter claims the U.S. is only at 35% of that capacity right now, citing a New York Times analysis.

They also want hundreds of thousands more contact tracers to track the spread of the virus.

The medical experts who have signed the letter include University of Pennsylvania's Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, William Hanage with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Northwestern University's Dr. Seth Trueger, and Yale School of Medicine's Dr. Reshma Ramachandran.

Following this proposal could lead to weeks or months more of lockdown, and it is unclear how the economy could withstand that level of inactivity. Also, there is evidence that lockdowns are not the answer to controlling COVID-19, as states like California that had extremely strict lockdowns are still seeing spikes in case numbers now.

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