More than 150 prominent US medical experts, scientists, teachers, nurses and others have signed a letter to political leaders urging them to shut down the country and start over to contain the surging coronavirus pandemic.
“The best thing for the nation is not to reopen as quickly as possible, it’s to save as many lives as possible,” they wrote in the document, which was sent to the Trump administration, leading members of Congress and state governors on Thursday.
“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 said.
They say the only way to reopen the economy and the country safely is to follow a set of protocols that public health experts deem necessary for controlling the spread of Covid-19. The group includes things like having enough daily testing to test everyone with flu-like symptoms, a work force of contact tracers large enough to track all current cases and more personal protective equipment to keep essential workers safe.
In addition, the letter says all nonessential businesses should be closed and restaurants nationwide should only provide take-out service. People should only leave their homes to get food and medicine or fresh air and exercise, and masks should be mandatory in all situations, the letter urged. Leaders should also ban interstate travel to help contain the virus.
“If you don’t take these actions, the consequences will be measured in widespread suffering and death,” the letter warned.
“Our decision makers need to hit the reset button,” said Matt Wellington, the public health campaigns director for the advocacy group US PIRG, which joined with health experts to draft the letter.
“Continuing on the path we’re on now will result in widespread suffering and death. And for what? Health experts laid out criteria for how to reopen safely. It’s time to listen to them,” Wellington said.