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As Trump seeks to reopen economy, infectious disease doctor says 'erase April'

Without a monthlong national lockdown, Dr. Carlos Del Rio warns the coronavirus crisis could last as six to eight more months.

ATLANTA — One of the nation's leading infectious disease doctors says the U.S. needs to shut down for as long as a month or we could be setting ourselves up for a national malaise that could last six or even eight months.

Emory expert Dr. Carlos Del Rio told former 11Alive reporter Jaye Watson in an interview today on the school's Facebook page that, contrary to President Trump's desire to see things functioning at fully capacity again by Easter (April 12), we need to "erase April from the calendar."

"We need to do a close down of the country which we really haven't done," Dr. Del Rio said. 

RELATED: Emory expert warns point of 'no return' approaching for Georgia, urges Kemp to shut down state

He said "once you do that and you do it effectively and you do it well," in 30 days we would "be able to reopen the country, reopen the economy and get moving."

If we don't, Dr. Del Rio offered a grim picture of the rest of the year.

"We could start emerging out of it in a month. It's not going to be immediate, but we could start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "The way we're doing it haphazard - somebody does this, somebody does that, nobody does it consistently - I worry that ... it feels like a little bit like we're in a sort of a swamp. I think we may be stuck in the swamp for quite some time, six months, eight months."

"Not doing things right actually has a bigger cost," Dr. Del Rio said.

The Emory expert has previously called on Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to shut down the state, warning its health system was nearing a catastrophic point of "no return."

On Monday, Kemp announced a partial shelter in place, applying to residents considered most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Spelling out a national worst-case scenario, Dr. Del Rio said without proper action we could face the worst of both worlds - medical and economic.

"The worst-case scenario is that we don’t control this virus and we go into a big recession or a depression. I think that would be a double whammy right," he said. "We don't control the infection and we have an economic slowdown that leads to a depression and 30 percent unemployment and many other things.

"I think you have to balance the economy with the public health, and that's what the president is trying to do - how do you balance the economy with public health? But threading that needle isn't easy and you want to be sure that you don't get suck with both being bad."


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