President-elect Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not institute another nationwide lockdown upon assuming office in January, emphasizing that a more targeted approach would be better for fighting COVID-19 while keeping the U.S. economy intact.
Biden made the comments in response to a question from veteran NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker with reference to an earlier statement he made in an ABC interview in August.
Biden said at the time that he would follow the advice of the scientific community in combating the coronavirus — a clear contrast to the actions of President Donald Trump and his administration, which routinely disregarded science. Biden told ABC’s David Muir that he would “listen to the scientists” and institute a shutdown if they said it was necessary.
But Biden on Thursday said his earlier remark was a response to a “hypothetical question.”
“The answer was I would follow the science,” Biden told Welker. “I am not going to shut down the economy, period. I’m going to shut down the virus. ... I’ll say it again. No national shutdown. No. National. Shutdown. Because every region, every area, every community can be different. And so there’s no circumstance which I can see that would require a total national shutdown. I think that would be counterproductive.”
Biden also outlined examples in which businesses could remain open. “In a state ... where the infection rate is not as high, you can have a gymnasium open. It’s another thing to say it can only be open four hours a day with X number of people. The church I go to, ... they don’t allow more than 40% of the people to come into the church. Those are rational decisions. It’s not shutting down everything. It’s calibrating based on what the threat is.”
Another national lockdown may not be in the cards, but the president-elect’s team last week reportedly began phoning governors and mayors of major cities to encourage them to institute mask mandates that can stop the spread of COVID-19 while still keeping businesses open.
Watch Biden’s full remarks below.