During the early onset of Covid-19 in the spring, government officials from all walks of life largely agreed that government intervention and the forced shutdown of many businesses was needed to protect public health.
This approach has clearly failed in the United States as it has resulted in widespread economic devastation, including millions of lost jobs, bankruptcies and extremely serious losses in profitability. States with strict lockdowns have also failed to cause fewer covid deaths per million than less strict states.
Therefore, a few months after the start of the pandemic, some governors weighed competing economic costs with the containment of covid-19 and slowly reopened their economies. Of course, these governors did not mandate the reopening of companies; however, they provided companies option to reopen.
Hysteria ensued, as many viewed the easing of restrictions as mass murder. Atlantic called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s easing of restrictions a “human sacrifice” and referred to the Georgians as part of a “case study on pandemic exceptionalism”. Instead, we should view the lockdowns as a case study of the failure of brutal approaches to contain a highly infectious virus.
Now that we are nine months into this pandemic, there is a clearer picture of how state government approaches vary widely. It is clear that “reopened” economies are doing much better overall than less “reopened” economies. “Fueled by wider and faster economic reopenings in the wake of the initial coronavirus eruption, conservative-leaning red states far outpace liberal-leaning blue states in getting people back to work,” writes Carrie Sheffield. This logically follows especially considering that human beings learn to adapt very quickly. Now we have learned a lot more about the treatment for this virus and who is most at risk of infection.
Not everyone can #StayHome
Even so, many lockdown proponents still argue that every covid infection is a public policy failure. But this position is largely a luxury for white-collar workers who can afford to work from home. The lockouts have been described as “the worst assault on the working class in half a century”. Martin Kulldorff, biostatistician, says: “The blue collar class ‘works there, including high risk people in their sixties’. Jay Bhattacharya, colleague of Kulldorff, notes that one of the reasons that “minority populations have experienced higher mortality in the United States from the epidemic is that they often do not have the opportunity … to stay at home ”. Indeed, top-down foreclosure policies are “regressive” and reflect a “monomania,” says Dr Bhattacharya. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why more affluent Americans tend to view restrictive measures as the appropriate response.
For many Americans, prolonged periods of no gainful employment, no income, or no social interaction are not only impossible but potentially fatal. Martin Kulldorff notes that the restrictions on covid-19 fail to take into account broader public health concerns and create collateral damage; among the collateral damage, there is “an increase in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer and an alarming drop in vaccination”. Dr Bhattacharya rightly notes that society “will be counting the health harms of these lockdowns for a very long time.”
Bhattacharya stressed the politicization of these restrictions: “When the Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the spring, ‘1,300 epidemiologists signed a letter saying the gatherings were in line with good public health practice,” while the same epidemiologists argued that “we should basically quarantine.” Such a contradiction defies logic and undermines arguments about the lethality of this virus. If this new virus was truly as devastating to the general public as expected, then political leaders supporting mass protests and riots during a pandemic appear ill-founded. This contradiction has been cited in countless lawsuits challenging the validity and constitutionality of the covid-19 restrictions.
Moreover, these often severe restrictions targeted constitutionally protected rights such as freedom of religion. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito criticized the Nevada governor’s restrictions, saying, “Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise … We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does. does not exempt us from this responsibility. This scathing criticism, however, did not gain the support of the Supreme Court as a 5 to 4 majority was shifted to “the governor’s responsibility to protect the public during a pandemic.”
The worst state and local delinquents
Such deference may be politically advantageous for the Supreme Court, but it poses a much bigger problem for fundamental freedoms. On the one hand, many of these covid restrictions have been issued by state governors or administrative agencies rather than through democratic means. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been targeted for her continued bypassing democratic channels and for her top-down approach.
These covid restrictions are somewhat meaningless without sufficient enforcement and resources, so many major US cities have created task forces to enforce these covid restrictions. For example, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has threatened to shut down utilities for those who throw massive house parties. Garcetti wants to treat private gatherings the same as the bars and nightclubs he has forced to close. Not only is this ridiculous, it is also bossy; there have been few checks on its ability to arm public services in this way. The New York City Sheriff’s Office recently “arrested a group of more than 200 people who flout coronavirus restrictions.” Their crime? The deputies found around two hundred people without masks “dancing, drinking and smoking hookah inside”. In typical government fashion, the owner of the place was “slapped with five summons … for violating emergency orders, selling unlicensed liquor and storing unlicensed liquor.” What would we do without the government?
California Governor Gavin Newsom has long been involved in this effort to curtail freedoms under the guise of public health. Governor Newsom and the California Department of Public Health have issued new “safety” guidelines for all private gatherings during the Thanksgiving holiday. According to Newsweek, “All gatherings should not include more than three households, including hosts and guests, and should be held outdoors, for two hours or less.” Given Newsom’s interventionist tendencies, it is likely that these restrictions will be enforced. How will the government determine how many households participate in a Thanksgiving meal and who will apply the two-hour window? These are questions journalists should ask themselves.
Meanwhile, the varying levels of economic recovery between the Red States and the Blue States show just how unsuccessful top-down politics can be. Strict lockdowns have devastated the incomes of millions of families while failing to suppress mortality from covidus. This failed experiment must end.
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