'There's nothing that's ever been less political than the coronavirus,' one doctor who signed the letter explains
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- "Shut it down now, and start over" is the message from health experts across the country as COVID-19 cases surge in more than 40 states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the U.S. could see 175,000 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths by August 15.
More than 150 doctors endorsed an open letter to lawmakers, urging them to hit the restart button.
The letter, published on the United States Public Interest Research Group's website and penned by its public health campaigns director Matthew Wellington, blames the push to reopen the economy for the country's worsening health crisis and calls for all nonessential businesses to close.
Dr. Travis Porco, an ophthalmological biostatistician and professor at the University of California, San Fransisco, said he signed the letter.
"I believe everybody that signed that endorses that and sees this crisis for what it is -- a crisis that's not gotten any better. It's only gotten worse," he said.
The letter came with the warning, "If you don't take these actions, the consequences will be measured in widespread suffering and death."
Dr. Porco added that America's struggle to contain the virus is evident on the world stage.
"I think we've already failed in comparison to many countries," he said. "We've seen many countries act swiftly and efficiently to crush the pandemic. They're reopening and they're doing fine. We didn't. We couldn't do that."
Health experts also fear inconsistent messaging, unenforced policies and push back over mask-wearing can be devastating.
"There's nothing that's ever been less political than the coronavirus," Dr. Porco said. "I mean, the coronavirus doesn't care if you're a Democrat or Republican. Or what your religion is, or what your ethnicity is. We're just food to that thing."
The letter includes a list of recommendations for what's needed to reopen American cities -- once it's safe -- calling for enhanced testing capabilities, more contact tracers and more personal protective equipment.
Understanding a second shutdown would be devastating for many, Porco explained, "I think a lot of people would love to comply with the orders, but they need to put food on the table. A lot of small businesses need help. So I think as long as we support people that we're asking sacrifices of, people will understand."
"We need you to lead," the open letter says. "We remind you that history has its eyes on you."
To read the full letter, click here.