A Brigham and Women’s doctor is predicting lockdowns are on the horizon to deal with the post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases. 

Dr. Abraar Karan said Sunday that he expects lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus will be instituted. 

“I think we are headed toward more lockdowns after holiday surge,” Karan wrote on Twitter. “I suspect that the more people we have dying without access to hospital beds will at a point become politically incompatible with re-election for politicians, which is what seems to drive most action in this country.”

The coronavirus death toll in the United States surpassed 350,000 on Sunday, the most deaths in the world from the pandemic by hundreds of thousands. Public health experts are warning that cases and hospitalizations are going to surge, seeded by holiday gatherings around Christmas and New Year’s. 

Karan said he hopes when lockdowns do arrive that more funding will be focused on protecting front line workers, and that the vaccine rollout will be more efficient in getting doses to essential workers and those at high risk. 

The doctor said he’s concerned that the worst-case scenario — with greater spread of the virus spurred by holiday gatherings and increasing prevalence of the new, more transmissible coronavirus variant — may “end up pushing places over the edge.”

At the end of December, Gov. Charlie Baker issued new restrictions on businesses and gatherings in Massachusetts due to concerns about a holiday-linked COVID-19 surge. Capacity limits were reduced to 25 percent for offices, restaurants, retail businesses, grocery stores, places of worship, gyms, movie theaters, casinos, and close contact personal services, among several other sectors. Baker also lowered the number of people who can gather in private residences and public spaces to 25 people outside and 10 people indoors. 

Baker said Wednesday that officials will continue to “evaluate the data to determine if any future steps should be taken.”

Karan has been advocating for “smarter” lockdowns since at least August, and on Sunday, he again pressed for policy measures to stop the spread. 

If there are lockdowns, Karan wrote, it is also essential for harms associated with the shutdowns be addressed. 

“We need to implement absolute, not incremental, restrictions on nonessential venues,” he wrote. “Those businesses need additional [financial] protections in return. Anything that needs to remain open (grocery, pharmacies) needs to operate at regulated capacity w/ [increased] protection for frontline staff.”

In addition, Karan called for repurposing spaces such as hotels and dormitories to provide “safer and better” locations for isolation and quarantine, writing that people should be given financial incentives to use them. 

“We need to slow spread quickly,” Karan said, adding that it is also critical that “large parts of the workforce” be repurposed to help with deployment of the vaccines.

The national vaccine rollout fell short of its goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020. With the vaccine deployment lagging, some public health experts are calling for new measures to get doses to more people faster as cases continue to surge and with the emergence of the new virus variant. 


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