Joe Biden faces a decision unlike any other incoming president: whether to back a short-term national lockdown to finally arrest a raging pandemic.
For now, it's a question the president-elect would prefer to avoid. In the week since he defeated President Donald Trump, Biden has devoted most of his public remarks to encouraging Americans to wear a mask and view the coronavirus as a threat that has no regard for political ideology.
But the debate has been livelier among members of the coronavirus advisory board Biden announced this week. One member, Dr. Michael Osterholm, suggested a four- to six-week lockdown with financial aid for Americans whose livelihoods would be affected. He later walked back his remarks and was rebutted by two other members of the panel who said a widespread lockdown shouldn't be under consideration.
That's a sign of the tough dynamic Biden will face when he is inaugurated in January. He campaigned as a more responsible steward of America's public health than President Donald Trump is and has been blunt about the challenges that lie ahead for the country, warning of a "dark winter" as cases spike.
But talk of lockdowns are especially sensitive. For one, they're nearly impossible for a president to enact on his own, requiring bipartisan support from state and local officials. But more broadly, they're a political flashpoint that could undermine Biden's efforts to unify a deeply divided country.
"It would create a backlash," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who added that such a move could make the situation worse if people don't comply with restrictions. "Lockdowns can have consequences that diminish the value of such an approach." During his first public appearance since losing the election, Trump noted on Friday that he wouldn't support a lockdown. The president, who has yet to publicly acknowledge Biden's victory, would likely reinforce that message to his loyal supporters once he's left office.
Still, the pandemic's toll continues to escalate.
1,77,000 single-day cases in America
The United States on Friday recorded its highest single-day spike of COVID-19 cases, registering over 177,000 new cases, reported The Washington Post.
Every state reported an increase in new COVID-19 cases, with at least 10 states tallying all-time highs, including Midwestern states like Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Ohio, where the surging numbers have pushed hospital capacity to dangerous levels.
The COVID-19 infection rate in the US has triggered a new round of restrictions, including West Virginia for the first time implementing a statewide mask mandate, New York City warning of school closures to in-person learning, and widespread limits on indoor gatherings and operation hours for bars and restaurants.