Featured Image: Eneas De Troya
Imagine sitting in school sometime in February, or let’s say early March of 2020, talking with your friends, laughing with them, eating with them. Now imagine being told that this behavior was no longer acceptable and that you were acting carelessly for doing so. Imagine the simple gesture of shaking someone’s hand would be deemed reckless and dangerous. Imagine being told that an entire nation was going into total lockdown. Imagine being told that it would be a quick two weeks until everything was back to normal. Well, folks, it’s been over a year, and in many respects, we are still living in this Covid-19 dystopia.
Throughout the outbreak of Covid-19, politicians around the world have imposed severe restrictions on business, travel, immigration, and everyday activities under the auspices of “public health.” The consequences of these policies have been catastrophic for the economy, public health, and society as a whole.
Do Lockdowns Even Work?
When I first developed an opinion on the Covid-19 lockdowns, I looked at opening the country from a cost-benefit analysis. I believed that opening would “certainly put more people at risk of contracting the virus,” but thought that the economic and mental health consequences would outweigh the consequences of spreading the virus. As the virus has progressed in this country and throughout the world, the data has shown that there is no evidence that these lockdown measures actually work in their supposed goal of stopping the spread. When analyzing charts from an array of different countries and states, there appears to be no correlation between lockdowns, mask mandates, and other measures with lowered cases, hospitalizations, or deaths.
A Stanford University study, which was published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation, compared and contrasted eight countries that imposed strict lockdown measures (England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and the United States) versus two countries that did not implement mandatory lockdowns or close down businesses (Sweden and South Korea). Among those ten countries, the study found no direct benefit of lockdowns in reducing the growth in cases of Covid-19. Furthermore, the study concluded that the lockdowns had no clear advantage over voluntary measures. The researchers stated, “we do not question the role of all public health interventions, or of coordinated communications about the epidemic, but we fail to find an additional benefit of stay-at-home orders and business closures.” Another study by the University of Toronto’s Dr. Rabail Chaudhry and others collected data from the top 50 countries (in terms of Covid-19) and found that “rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and widespread testing were not associated with Covid mortality per million people.”
Below are some charts from around the world:
Not only does the data confirm the ineffectiveness of lockdown measures around the world, but the data has also shown their ineffectiveness in the United States. As the corporate press, the entertainment industry, and the so-called public health “experts” praised governors like the disgraced New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, they vilified Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. After Florida removed the majority of their Covid-19 restrictions, headlines like “Florida Man Leads His State to the Morgue” in The New Republic from June began to pop up. A December article from The Washington Post even called DeSantis “a Covid-19 catastrophe.” As people fawned over Governor Cuomo as a potential presidential contender in 2024, he began to embark on a victory lap in the middle of the pandemic—even writing a book about his “leadership” during the pandemic. Celebrities like Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert, as well as people all over social media, began identifying as “Cuomosexuals,” a term which the governor embraced. The governor even received an Emmy for “his masterful use of television to inform and calm people around the world.” Meanwhile, DeSantis was dubbed “DeathSantis” and consistently scrutinized for his actions.
After Florida’s phase three reopening, which essentially fully opened the state, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Florida was “Asking for trouble.” Andy Slavitt, a White House senior advisor to the Covid-19 response, said, “Places like Florida didn’t learn the lesson from observing New York. And they’re not going to succeed in opening the economy now.” Mike Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, warned that “Florida will be a house on fire.” Even after lifting the state’s lockdown measures, Florida has better numbers than lockdown states like California and New York while maintaining a flourishing economy with the lowest unemployment rate (4.8 percent) of any large state in the nation—lower than Texas (6.8 percent), Illinois (7.7 percent), New York (8.8 percent), and California (9 percent).
Image: Diana Robinson
Despite concerns over Florida’s high elderly population (the second oldest state in the U.S.) and its relative laissez-faire approach to the pandemic response, Florida has prevailed. Allysia Finley points out in The Wall Street Journal:
The Covid death risk increases enormously with each decade of age. More than 80% of Covid deaths in the U.S. have occurred among seniors over 65. They make up a larger share of Florida’s population than any other state except Maine. Based on demographics, Florida’s per-capita Covid death rate would be expected to be one of the highest in the country.
None of this happened. In fact, Florida’s death rate is lower than the national average, and when comparing the sunshine state to New York, Florida ranks 27th in deaths compared to New York, which ranks second. Florida, the second oldest state in the nation, has a death rate that is only slightly higher than California’s, a much younger state. Moreover, “Florida’s death rate among seniors is about 20% lower than California’s and 50% lower than New York’s, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.”
Below are some charts comparing Florida to other states:
Moreover, instead of sending Covid-19 positive patients to nursing homes—a policy implemented in states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and most notably New York, where over 15,000 people have died—Florida adopted a much different strategy. As Finley notes:
[DeSantis’] administration halted outside visitations to nursing homes and bolstered their stockpile of personal protective equipment. Florida’s government also set up 23 Covid-dedicated nursing centers for elderly patients discharged from hospitals. Nursing-home residents who tested positive and couldn’t be isolated in their facilities were sent to these Covid-only wards. Florida set up field hospitals to handle a surge in cases that models predicted in the spring, although it never materialized.
Remarkably, the vastly different responses by Florida and New York have caused the same people in the corporate press to change their tune and begin to praise Florida’s response.
Image: Gage Skidmore
Florida is no exception in the United States when it comes to the ineffectiveness and irrationality of lockdowns. By a show of example, Alabama and Mississippi, two neighboring states, had different Covid-19 policies: Alabama implemented a mask mandate, while Mississippi lifted their mandate—both states have had similar results.
Five states in the Southeast (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina) all implemented mask mandates at different dates and have had roughly the same results.
While Oklahoma did not impose a mask mandate, and the neighboring state of Arkansas did, the curves are the same.
After Texas fully reopened—allowing businesses to operate at 100 percent capacity and lifting their state’s mask mandate—people were quickly open to blame Texas’s “reckless” policy. In spite of the outrage, cases, deaths, and hospitalizations continue to fall.
Despite imposing a litany of restrictions compared to Arizona and Nevada, California’s rate cases were very similar to that of Arizona and Nevada.
Here is a look at the desert countries in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. Once again, different policy, same results.
This is not to say that masks have no use, especially in places like hospitals, where someone cannot avoid close contact, as studies have shown. However, a study from The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection.” Furthermore, it went to say that “the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.”
The Economic and Public Health Impact of Lockdowns
Even with the mountain of evidence that lockdowns do not work in stopping the spread of the virus, the economic and public health effects are insurmountable. In May 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would not be willing to sacrifice human lives in order to open the economy, calling it “absurd.” The premise of this statement is completely wrong because human life and the economy are inseparable from one another.
A January 2021 publication from researchers from Duke, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins concluded that there will be more than 800,000 excess deaths from the virus over the next 15 years in the United States as a result of the economic impact of the lockdowns. The research also found major increases in mortality rates and decreases in life expectancy. According to the researchers, the excess deaths caused by the devastating economic and public health consequences of the lockdowns will “far exceed those immediately related to the acute Covid-19 critical illness and that the recession caused by the pandemic can jeopardize population health for the next two decades.”
A report from the United Nations in April 2020 found that hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of dying due to the consequences of shutting down the economy, as many children have been stuck without needed resources for survival. The report stated that “could cause hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths this year, effectively reversing recent gains in reducing infant mortality.” Moreover, it found that 42 million to 66 million are at risk of falling into “extreme poverty,” which would add to the already estimated 396 million children facing extreme poverty from 2019. “When you ask them to stay home, in many cases you’re asking them to starve,” said Benjamin Geden, the deputy director of the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program and former South America director on the National Security Council at the White House. Not only is it entitled and out-of-touch to coercively deprive people to earn a living in the United States, it is entirely ludicrous to impose lockdowns in third world countries. Additionally, a UNICEF report from May warned of 1.2 million child deaths as “visits to health care centres are declining due to lockdowns, curfews and transport disruptions, and as communities remain fearful of infection.” The UN also warned that up to 130 million people are at risk of starvation as a result of shutting down the economy.
In August of 2020, the CDC found that a staggering 25.5 percent of people ages 18 to 24 have contemplated suicide in the past 30 days, which was previously at about 7 percent from 2008 to 2015, according to the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). As of October 2020, the CDC estimates that 93,814 have died from “excess deaths,” unrelated to the virus, “42,427 from cardiovascular conditions, 10,686 from diabetes and 3,646 from cancer” as a result of shutting down medical care that they deem “non-essential.” According to The New York Times, a just “three-month lockdown across different parts of the world and a gradual return to normal over 10 months could result in an additional 6.3 million cases of tuberculosis and 1.4 million deaths from it.”
Former advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO) Professor Karol Sikora, estimated that up to 60,000 cancer patients are going to die as a result of the lack of cancer services due to the lockdowns, and “15,000 patients—of all ages—will suffer illness or be forced to undergo unnecessary invasive treatments due to the loss of cancer services.”
As reported in The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal, people with dementia and other severe mental health illnesses are far more likely to die “during lockdown.” The report found that those suffering from dementia are 53 percent more likely to die from the lockdowns and that mentally ill elderly patients are 123 percent more likely to die. This is a direct result of isolating patients who need extra support and medication, which is no longer available due to an outrageous and draconian government response.
The Societal Impact of Lockdowns
Using 36 studies (43 estimates) and seven other preliminary national estimates, making up a total of 50 estimates, Stanford physician and scientist John P.A. Ioannidis found that for those under the age of 70, the death rate “ranged from 0.00% to 0.57% with a median of 0.05% across the different global locations (with a corrected median of 0.04%).” Furthermore, the Covid-19 mortality rate for children is lower than it is for influenza (the flu), while higher for old people. Even if lockdowns worked in their supposed goal (they do not), we should still ask ourselves, is the irreparable damage of locking down for a respiratory virus with such a low mortality rate worth it? What are the consequences of lockdowns, and is there more to life than the avoidance of death? Historian and former senior judge on the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Lord Sumption, could not have stated it better:
What sort of life do we think we are protecting? There is more to life than the avoidance of death. Life is a drink with friends. Life is a crowded football match or a live concert. Life is a family celebration with children and grandchildren. Life is companionship, an arm around one’s back, laughter or tears shared at less than two meters. These things are not just optional extras. They are life itself. They are fundamental to our humanity, to our existence as social beings. Of course, death is permanent, whereas joy may be temporarily suspended. But the force of that point depends on how temporary it really is.
None of this is to minimize the severity of the virus, especially the risk it poses to the more vulnerable. While we should not assume what is best for the most vulnerable, we should prioritize the most vulnerable. As Lord Sumption posits, “Guidance is fine. Voluntary self-isolation is fine, and strongly advisable for the more vulnerable. Most of them will do it by choice. But coercion is not fine. There is no moral or principled justification for it.”
What Should Have Been Done
Instead of imposing harsh lockdowns as the majority of countries and states did, the United States and the world should have followed a policy of “Focused Protection:” identify where the significant risk is—seniors, obesity, and those with pre-existing conditions—and attack the virus from there, all the while allowing those who are a much smaller risk to resume their lives. This strategy was embraced by states like Florida and countries like Sweden, which are doing far better than many countries that embraced lockdowns, and notably advocated for in the Great Barrington Declaration—a statement that was written and signed by three infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists—Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, Dr. Martin Kulldorf of Harvard University, and Dr. Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University. The declaration seeks a major overhaul of the Covid-19 policy, arguing that the collateral damage from the lockdowns is so severe that a policy of lockdowns should be out of the question. Since its signing in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, on October 4, 2020, the declaration has received nearly 820,000 signatures: about 764,000 from concerned citizens, about 14,000 from medical and public health scientists, and about 42,000 from medical practitioners from around the world. The declaration states:
Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings, and deteriorating mental health—leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden.
The declaration also identifies ways of how a strategy of “Focused Protection” would be implemented. For example:
Nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their homes. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside.
Unsurprisingly, the Great Barrington Declaration has been smeared by critics as being “far-right extremism” even though two of its drafters are on the Left. The declaration has also been deemed as “pseudoscientific” by “wanting to let the virus run free,” which is not what the strategy of “Focused Protection” advocates for.
The Case for Hope
Image: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
While the last year has been horrific in many respects, with Covid-19 claiming millions of lives worldwide and the catastrophic economic, public health, and societal impacts, there is a reason to be hopeful. The implementation of the Covid-19 vaccine is an excellent tool to reach immunity. Covid-19 deaths are plummeting in the United States, and vaccinations are rising. States like Texas and Mississippi have completely reopened. Governors like Cuomo are finally being held accountable for their actions in relation to nursing homes. Even states which implemented very harsh restrictions are beginning to lift them. The lockdowns should be lifted once and for all, and life should resume.
All charts in this article from Ian Miller