All we want for Christmas is a national lockdown to halt the coronavirus
Article By: Emily Sadecki and Dominic Sisti
Article By: Emily Sadecki and Dominic Sisti
Ireland has the right idea. We too should begin a strict lockdown right away, aiming to relax regulations—though not totally lift them
The holiday season is usually filled with excitement, energy, and yes a bit of stress. Families figure out travel plans, where to gather, who will cook what dish, and quests to Target to snag the popular gifts our kids are begging for.
This year will be different. As the virus continues to hurtle across the United States, families face tough choices about what to do for Thanksgiving and the December holidays. Concerns loom large about the risk of travel and family gatherings, particularly with elders and other vulnerable family members.
Daily reports from public health officials show that this sense of caution is absolutely warranted. Every single state is now experiencing dangerous increases in COVID cases with more than half facing active, uncontrolled outbreaks.
Although the COVID response in the United States has been among the worst in the world, we are not alone in facing this particular set of challenges about the holidays. For example, Ireland is taking strong steps to try to salvage the December holidays.
A few weeks ago, Ireland enacted a strict, six-week-long nationwide lockdown similar those from back in March and April. According to reporting by the BBC, Irish residents are being asked to remain within three miles of their homes, work from home, and restrict gatherings in an attempt to allow citizens to gather for the holiday season. There are exceptions for essential workers and front-line clinicians, of course.
Ireland has the right idea. We too should begin a strict lockdown right away, aiming to relax regulations—though not totally lift them—for the days between Hanukkah and Christmas.
What would such a lockdown look like? To really put a dent the case count, we need to return to severely limited interactions – stopping indoor or outdoor dining, sporting events, and non-essential business. Schools should shift exclusively to online education. This time period aligns with most university plans to send students home permanently at the time of the Thanksgiving holiday. A national lockdown now would also dampen the effects of spread from returning college students—some of whom will inevitably be carriers.
A national effort to save the holidays could also be an opportunity for the country to begin to heal after a terribly divisive year. Federal, state, and local governments along with private corporations should mount a coordinated effort to creatively support communities during the pre-holiday shutdown. Recognizing we cannot rely on a coordinated federal response at the moment, large, flush corporations have a moral obligation to now step up.
Uber and Lyft should pay their drivers to transport meals and medication. Streaming services like Hulu and Netflix should offer one month of subscriptions free of cost. Internet providers should open their networks to all and offer free internet access. Evidence-based educational programming for children should be provided through basic cable or terrestrial channels to ensure broad access. Libraries should offer free book delivery and Amazon should distribute free Kindles to encourage reading.
Of course, we will hear the standard objections to another lockdown: the economic impact will be devastating. This is where effective public health communication is critical. And while a massive injection of public funding will be clearly necessary, we also know that the long-term economic impact of an uncontrolled pandemic pales in comparison to the costs of a temporary lockdown.
We are heading this direction anyway.
If the European countries are any indication, a lockdown will be unavoidable, with many states hitting new peaks of COVID and bracing for flu season. It may become necessary to preserve limited hospital beds and protective equipment. And if we delay in shutting down too much longer, we may be in for a much longer lockdown, and will lose the opportunity to enjoy some semblance of the holidays. A pre-holiday national closure offers the opportunity to both regain our footing in battling the pandemic and emotionally reboot ourselves with a small, safe gathering of family and friends.