If you’ve been following the bouncing ball, the shutdowns created joblessness and isolation that served to spur many to turn to drugs or suicide. The shutdowns also forced the closure of many of the government and non-government avenues of help for people in trouble. And the shutdowns caused a massive decline in revenue for these services, possibly causing them to close permanently.
The idea that a second lockdown, more severe than the first and on a national basis, would not cause more damage than it prevents is sheer fantasy. COVID poses health risks to a particular portion of the population. Lockdowns pose a risk to everybody—both economically and physically.
Many people have talked about the death of expertise in our day. Given the “experts” we have, I say, “Good riddance.”
This thought comes to mind as I read an opinion piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune by Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota, and Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. These two “experts” are arguing that what our country needs is another lockdown. This time, however, they want what seems to be a nationalized lockdown in which officials “mandate sheltering in place for everyone but the truly essential workers. By that, we mean people must stay at home and leave only for essential reasons: food shopping and visits to doctors and pharmacies while wearing masks and washing hands frequently.” You see, they say that only 39% of American workers are truly “essential” while previous lockdowns allowed 78% of workers to keep going. If we can just put 60% of workers out of jobs and have the government pay them to stay home, then things will all be well.
Does this sound reasonable to you?
Dr. Osterholm and Mr. Kashkari are under the illusion that we have somehow “failed” in America because we have recorded more than 160,000 deaths from the virus. Anybody who has followed the story of this virus and how we have treated it knows that our standards for marking “COVID deaths” has been remarkably loose. Almost anybody who died with the virus is eligible to be labeled a COVID death. A CBS affiliate in Florida discovered last month that people dying of gunshot wounds to the head, falls, and even a motorcycle crash were being labeled as COVID deaths. While some of these deaths have been removed from state statistics, the reality is that there are still very few people without severe pre-existing conditions dying of COVID. But even with such loose standards, the median age for such supposed deaths is at or above the median age for deaths in the United States. There are still fewer than 300 deaths attributed to COVID for those under 24—and just a bit over 12,000 for those under 54 according to the CDC.
What we now know is exactly what we have known from the beginning. There is virtually no risk of death for those under the age of 24 from COVID and a tiny risk for those under 54. This is a virus which attacks the sick and the old who are likely to have sicknesses. And yet our two “experts” want us to lock down our economy even more extensively than before so that we can reduce our number of cases per 100,000 people to one from the supposedly disastrous 17 that we currently suffer. At that rate, they believe, we can do severe contact tracing and thus isolate anybody who has the disease.
Did lockdowns work before?
The problem is that they didn’t. In May Elaine He of Bloomberg looked at the European countries, which had mostly passed their first wave of COVID. What she found was that “the relative strictness of a country’s containment measures had little bearing” on the severity of a country’s deaths from COVID. What was true of Europe was also true here. The most severe lockdowns were in states such as New York and New Jersey, which both lead the nation in coronavirus deaths. States that had a lighter touch but which have populations that are fairly large—and indeed fairly old—such as Texas, Georgia, and Arizona had and have only a fraction of the deaths that New York and New Jersey suffered. Dr. Osterholm and Mr. Kashkari seem blithely unaware that such lockdowns do not correlate with death rates. Nor do they acknowledge that the lockdowns, as loose as they were, had and are having drastic and very bad results for people in our country and around the world.
For one thing, they created the conditions for a great many more deaths than usual in the age ranges of those who had little risk of death from the virus. Dr. Mike deBoisblanc of John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, California, told reporters that suicide had vastly increased. “We’ve never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time,” he said. “I mean we’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.” Two months later, in a webinar for the Buck Institute, CDC Director Robert Redfield told listeners that when it came to high school students, “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID. We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID.”