SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Medical experts, including several at UCSF and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, have signed a letter urging political leaders to shut down the country again to contain the new surge in COVID-19 cases.
The letter, drafted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and co-signed by more than 100 health professionals across the country, urged the Trump Administration, Congress and governors to “hit the reset button.”
Earlier this week, the country reached the grim milestone of 4 million cases and more than 144,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic. This week, California surpassed New York as the state with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases.
“In March, people went home and stayed there for weeks, to keep themselves and their neighbors safe. 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 said.
“Right now we are on a path to lose more than 200,000 American lives by November 1st. Yet, in many states people can drink in bars, get a haircut, eat inside a restaurant, get a tattoo, get a massage, and do myriad other normal, pleasant, but non-essential activities,” the letter went on to say.
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled back parts of the state’s reopening, which included closing bars and indoor dining at restaurants statewide. Indoor operations of salons and gyms, along with indoor religious services, are also closed in counties on the state’s COVID-19 watch list, which currently covers most of the populated areas of the state.
The experts called for the nation’s non-essential businesses to once again be closed, restaurants to be again takeout only and limiting interstate travel to essential trips only, along with stricter mask requirements.
“The best thing for the nation is not to reopen as quickly as possible, it’s to save as many lives as possible. And reopening before suppressing the virus isn’t going to help the economy,” they said.
For the economy to reopen, the letter called for significantly more testing capacity, a boost in the workforce of contact tracers, increased personal protective equipment (PPE) for essential workers, along with a stronger safety net for those who need it.
“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,” they said.
Calls for another shutdown by medical professionals come as local officials have offered dire predictions about the future of the pandemic.
Santa Clara County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith told KPIX 5 this week that he worried about COVID-19 potentially impacting communities for years. Meanwhile, Santa Clara health officer Dr. Sara Cody said that a lack of coordinated national response could mean the pandemic lasting for many months.