Health and Science

The 'patchwork' of state and local quarantines will prolong US coronavirus outbreak, former Obama advisor says

Key Points
  • The "patchwork" efforts by the U.S. to curb the spread of the coronavirus are not enough, former Obama White House health policy advisor Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel told CNBC on Thursday. 
  • A growing number of states are implementing so-called lockdown measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • However, the U.S. federal government has only issued advisories, and not mandatory nation-wide mitigation measures.
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel
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The "patchwork" efforts by local and state officials across the U.S. to curb the spread of the coronavirus are not enough, former Obama White House health policy advisor Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel told CNBC on Thursday. 

State and local officials have implemented a variety of "shelter-in-place" orders, shuttering nonessential businesses, bars and restaurants to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Without a national lockdown, the states that have issued shelter-in-place type orders are shouldering a brunt of the economic damage, Emanuel said. Worst yet, those efforts are being undermined by other regions that aren't doing the same.

"If we don't have a full national lockdown ... You are going to have these rollercoasters. You contain it in some area. Then we try to ease it up, then it just blossoms again and we are never going to get it under control in the whole country," Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, said in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box."

A growing number of states are implementing so-called lockdown measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. About eighteen states have stay-at-home orders or advisories and have closed nonessential businesses. Six states and Washington, D.C. have shuttered nonessential businesses. Several cities or counties in Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania have issued individual stay-at-home orders in the absence of statewide mandates.

In other countries, like Italy, regional lockdown measures to cordon off the hardest-hit parts of the country were expanded across the nation as the outbreak grew. However, the U.S. government has only issued advisories, and not mandatory national restrictions.

"If we don't do a national implementation, we will not be able to get the economy going. It'll be in fits and starts and it will not solve the problem," Emanuel said. "We have to have a coordinated national effort. This patchwork, which I've been decrying for three weeks now, is actually undermining the efforts of states that are imposing the stay-at-home orders, the quarantines."

COVID-19 has now infected more than 69,197 people across the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University, and killed at least 1,046 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Major outbreaks in cities like New York and San Francisco threaten to overwhelm the regional hospital systems, officials say. Mitigation measures such as lockdowns are meant to slow the spread of the virus and alleviate pressure on the health systems, which have limited supply of beds, ventilators and protective gear.

Emanuel pointed to China, which implemented severe shutdowns of major regions across the country, as an example of how to contain the spread of the virus. With such measures, Emanuel said China was able to effectively contain their outbreak in about eight weeks.

"The best place to look is what happened in China with imposition of physical distancing and quarantine," he said. "If you look at their curves, they implemented this roughly at the end of January and over the last few days they've announced no new cases of COVID-19, so that gives you an eight-week curve."

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