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'A Second U.S. Lockdown Has Become Almost Inevitable'

Total deaths in U.S. rise past 140,000 over weekend, as concerns grow over disease's rapid spread across the U.S.
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The U.S. has as of Sunday seen more than 140,000 total deaths from Covid-19 as total known infections inch closer to 4 million nationally -- about a quarter of the world's total 14.3 million cases.

Those quickly rising numbers -- as tallied by Johns Hopkins University -- show a disease that appears wildly out of control in the U.S.

For every 100 Americans, more than one has had or has the coronavirus, according to the U.S. total of 3.7 million diagnoses as of Sunday around noon.

"A second U.S. lockdown has become almost inevitable" to stop the spread of the virus, said Prof. Richard H. Ebright, the laboratory director at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology and a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University, in an email to TheStreet.

Ebright -- a highly accomplished scientist who was elected as an Infectious Diseases Society of America fellow in 2011 -- has been harshly critical of the Trump administration's response to the outbreak. 

"I expect to see a second lockdown -- tighter and longer than the first lockdown -- in most or all U.S. states in the second half of 2020, possibly as early as August to September 2020."

Ebright said a vaccine will be "essential" to break the cycle of lockdowns and resurgences, and that he expects to see at least one "at least partly effective" vaccine arriving in late 2020 or early 2021.

But he also echoed the sentiment of a Hong Kong researcher recently interviewed by TheStreet who suggested that vaccine development can be unpredictable and that multiple approaches should be pursued in parallel. 

Jiandong Huang, a professor at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Hong Hong's medical school, suggested it "might be difficult to develop" a vaccine that's safe, and highlighted potential problems of relying too heavily on the so-called "spike" or "S" proteins

Meanwhile, U.S. health experts expressed concerns Sunday at the rapidly accelerating cases of Covid-19.

"Why are we doing so poorly?" said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on NBC News' "Meet the Press" on Sunday, according to a transcript. Dr. Collins said that while several Northeastern states such as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut did a good job at slowing the outbreak, much the rest of the nation let its guard down.

"The rest of the country, perhaps imagining it was a New York problem, kind of went about their business," he said, adding that by failing to heed reopening and social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pandemic worsened. "People started congregating, and not wearing masks, and feeling like it's over and maybe summer, it'll go away."

Dr. Collins also questioned the nation's inability support widespread mask use by now. When worn and handled properly and made of the proper materials, masks are believed to slow the spread of the virus. 

Yet while some state and local governments have implemented mask-wearing policies, others have not. 

Major retailers such as Walmart  (WMT) - Get Free Report and Target  (TGT) - Get Free Report, however, recently have put in place rules requiring customers wear masks, joining others such as Starbucks  (SBUX) - Get Free Report. The National Retail Federation has also pushed for such policies. Walmart's mask requirement will start Monday.