With the recent election of Joe Biden and the surging number of COVID-19 cases across the country, the idea of a six to eight week complete shutdown has been tossed around as a possible response. In our current economic state, our country isn’t prepared for the financial crisis that a complete lockdown for this period of time would bring. A circuit breaker system is our best option, as it will serve as a definitive way for us to regain control over the virus without some of the negative consequences of a complete lockdown.
The circuit breaker system is essentially an attempt to break the chain of transmission through a series of periodic lockdowns that would last from 18 to 20 days. During lockdown portions of the cycle, all but essential services would be shut down, and stricter regulations would be implemented to encourage people to stay home. Then, restrictions would be loosened and businesses could reopen until the next circuit breaker. These periods of lockdown could assist in keeping cases down during the coming months until vaccines are widely available.
A circuit breaker system would serve to lower cases significantly. With this approach, the economy wouldn’t be as heavily impacted and there would be less disruption to education. Substantial financial aid would be administered to small business owners, workers, and local governments. Circuit breaker lockdowns will give overrun hospitals time to recover and supply reserves time to rebuild. This system might also help alleviate the “COVID-19 fatigue” that’s been plaguing portions of the public. It would provide relief from restrictions after case counts are brought under control during the lockdown cycles.
The US has tried to implement regional lockdowns, with minimal success in actually decreasing cases long term. Travel continues to be detrimental to controlling the spread, and cases are at an all-time high. According to The COVID Tracking Project, COVID-19 data from December 4 showed that cases in the US have grown 9.6 percent over the past week, with more than one hundred thousand people hospitalized. Cases will continue to skyrocket if immediate action isn’t taken. We must shift from stringent and ineffective tactics to lockdowns on a national scale.
Singapore, South Korea, and New Zealand have all successfully used circuit breaker lockdowns to cut down on transmission chains. However, the case numbers were low in these countries relative to our current counts, and the circuit breakers were enacted on a much smaller scale. Considering how widespread COVID-19 is becoming in the US, small-scale targeted lockdowns won’t be enough.
After observing how politicized simply wearing a mask has become, a full six to eight week lockdown would undoubtedly spark much more controversy. Compared to other countries, citizens of the US align with their personal liberties to the extent of which it has become difficult for some to sacrifice any privacy or personal freedoms. The circuit breaker system is less harsh, which would increase citizen compliance and thereby its effectiveness.
Ultimately, steps need to be taken immediately in order to combat this growing crisis and limit the loss of lives. Creating and implementing a nationally-imposed circuit breaker system and spreading a cohesive public message about its positive effects is the most promising next step.