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Penn Vice Provost of Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel believes that COVID-19 conditions are likely to improve only by November 2021. Credit: Diego Cárdenas

Penn Vice Provost of Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel said it could take almost 12 more months for the United States to completely re-open from COVID-19 in a recent interview.

In an interview with MarketWatch, Emanuel, who is also healthcare advisor to former Vice President Joe Biden, said he believes that conditions are likely to improve only by November 2021. Emanuel told MarketWatch it could be feasible to reopen colleges and universities before then depending on how a potential vaccine is rolled out.

Emanuel told MarketWatch that the current COVID-19 response setbacks in the U.S. include inefficient testing and a lack of nationwide precautionary measures such as mandatory mask wearing and social distancing. Emanuel said that initial concerns about catching COVID-19 through surfaces such as Amazon packages were “totally irrelevant.”

Emanuel also told MarketWatch that he believes lowering the U.S. daily case numbers to 3,000 will allow schools to reopen.

“Then we can be a lot more free and open,” he said in the interview. “The chance of spreading is low.” 

In April 2020, Emanuel criticized the government’s COVID-19 response at a Perry World House virtual event. Predicting the virus to last for up to 18 months, Emanuel denounced the current administration for thinking only in the short term.

“We need structural changes, not band-aids of a few weeks," Emanuel said at the PWH event in April. 

Emanuel told MarketWatch he believes stricter lockdowns are critical in slowing the spread of COVID-19. He said it is important to focus on opening outdoor areas before rushing to open up gyms and indoor dining. He also stressed the importance of limiting the size of gatherings. 

“That doesn’t mean you can’t gather with people, but it’s a small number,” Emanuel said in the interview. “Keeping your social network under 20 seems to be a critical threshold.”

In May, Emanuel said he did not believe a vaccine will be ready by the end of the year. He told MarketWatch that when a vaccine does come, it still will not allow the U.S. to open up immediately. 

“We can’t make enough of it fast enough and distribute it and administer it fast enough,” Emanuel said. “The idea that we’ll have a vaccine at the end of December, and presto, change-o, everything changes [isn’t true]. Now, it will lead to changes, but that’s going to take months.”