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Our First Lockdown Experiment Failed. Let's Not Try a Second One
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Shutting down businesses and schools felt to many people like a natural response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the extended coronavirus lockdown of 2020 did not follow any widely accepted standard strategy. Lockdowns were sporadic and short-lived during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the most recent historical parallel. Encouraging and coercing tens of millions of people to shelter in place in 2020 was one of the most radical social engineering experiments in modern history, as novel as the coronavirus itself.

The political impulse to cancel events and close nonessential services we experienced during the spring and summer of 2020 is reemerging as the highly contagious, albeit anecdotally less severe, omicron variant sweeps through New York City and other hotspots. Broadway theaters and rock and hip-hop performers have canceled performances, the Rockettes closed their season a week early and Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering curtailing attendance at the city’s annual ball drop at Times Square. Rumors that New York City is considering another public school system lockdown are sparking panic among parents.

Harvard has moved back to remote learning. The World Economic Forum in Davos has been canceled. Quebec is under lockdown, joining the Netherlands. The United Kingdom is considering one.

So, clearly, is the Biden administration. The feds can’t order lockdowns — but they can pressure states and cities to enact them.

White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci says he doesn’t “foresee” another national lockdown in the United States … yet. Students of political messaging will take note of the careful if-then conditional sentence structure in Fauci’s statement on ABC’s “This Week”: “I don’t see that in the future if we do the things that we’re talking about,” Fauci said. “The thing that continues to be very troublesome to me and my public health colleagues is the fact that we still have 50 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not vaccinated.” What are the odds that vaccine resisters will change their minds in the next week or two?

Americans should consider, as we stare down the barrel of a second wave of “slow the spread”-motivated societal freezes, the pros and cons of the first one last year. Spoiler alert: This is not a movie that deserves a sequel.

ORDER IT NOW

Co-conceived in 2005 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security and the World Health Organization, the Pandemic Influenza Plan was developed to “prevent, control, and respond to … novel influenza A viruses of animal (e.g. from birds or pigs) with pandemic potential,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was the blueprint for the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza deployed by the Trump and Biden administrations 15 years later to coordinate “all levels of government on the range of options for infection-control and containment, including those circumstances where social distancing measures, limitations on gatherings, or quarantine authority may be an appropriate public health intervention.” Federal officials turned to this Bush-era guidebook when COVID-19 came to America.

It pains this leftist to admit it, but conservatives who warned of the economic and psychological costs of the 2020 lockdown turned out to have been correct. “Lockdowns do not prevent infection in the future. They just don’t. It comes back many times, it comes back,” President Donald Trump said in April 2020, shortly before much of the country succumbed to lockdown fever. He looks prescient.

With the delta and omicron variants still raging, cost-benefit analysis of the COVID lockdown requires hard data that won’t be available for years. But one thing is clear: The lockdown experiment was far short of an unqualified success.

The economic cost has been staggering. “COVID-19-related job losses wiped out 113 straight months of job growth, with total nonfarm employment falling by 20.5 million jobs in April (2020),” according to a study by the Brookings Institute. About 200,000 businesses, more than average, failed. Harvard economists David Cutler and Lawrence Summers have estimated the total cost of the crisis, much of which is attributable to the lockdown, at \$16 trillion if the pandemic were to end this fall, i.e., now.

2020-21 was the Great Lost Year of American public education. With Black students five months behind where they would have been otherwise, and white students two months back, virtual instruction was virtually educational.

But what about the benefit? Some studies claimed that lockdowns prevented nearly 5 million cases in the United States; at a mortality rate of 1.6%, that works out to 80,000 fewer coronavirus fatalities thanks to the lockdown. But analyses of “excess deaths” indicate that at least 300,000 more Americans than usual died last year due to causes other than the virus itself. Increased alcohol consumption, reduced physical activity and depression culminating in suicide (not last year, when fewer people killed themselves, but in future years) will claim lives years into the future. If the lives-saved column of the ledger comes out a net positive, it probably won’t be by much.

As for ordinary Americans, we are voting with our feet: 72% of respondents to a Dec. 14 Ipsos poll said they plan to see family or friends outside of their household over the holidays.

This country can’t handle more lockdowns.

Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, “The Stringer.”

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Anti-Vaxx, Coronavirus 
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  1. anonymous[146] • Disclaimer says:

    No, this is what socioepidemiologists term the quarternary, laughingstock phase of the pandemic. This is the point at which dago Mengele rolls out the Green/Yellow/Red Contagion Alert synthesizing risk fusion pandemic profile scanning indicators, and it goes red whenever Biden shits his pants.

    • LOL: Jim Christian
  2. “This country can’t handle more lockdowns”
    This country can’t handle lock downs per se, regardless of their value or lack there of of —

  3. meamjojo says:

    “The thing that continues to be very troublesome to me and my public health colleagues is the fact that we still have 50 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not vaccinated.”

    I’m ecstatic to be considered one of the troublesome 50 million to the gnome Fauci!

    • Replies: @Notsofast
  4. meamjojo says:

    With the delta and omicron variants still raging, cost-benefit analysis of the COVID lockdown requires hard data that won’t be available for years. But one thing is clear: The lockdown experiment was far short of an unqualified success.

    Here are some articles on lockdowns and how they failed:

    Opinion Commentary
    The Fickle ‘Science’ of Lockdowns
    Experts foresaw before Covid that the strategy would fail. The authorities embraced it anyway.
    By Phillip W. Magness and Peter C. Earle
    Dec. 19, 2021
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/lockdown-science-pandemic-imperial-college-london-quarantine-social-distance-covid-fauci-omicron-11639930605

    Study Outlines The Damage to Democracy and Human Rights Under Lockdowns
    Ethan Yang
    – August 10, 2021
    https://www.aier.org/article/study-outlines-the-damage-to-democracy-and-human-rights-under-lockdowns/

    • Thanks: Jim Christian
  5. meamjojo says:

    This ties into the Covid lockdown theme via a fictional story. Should be prefect for Christmas!
    ——–
    The Vapor, the Hot Hat, & the Witches’ Potion A Fairy Story
    Margaret Anna Alice
    August 22, 2021

    Once upon a time in a prosperous land, a rumor swept across the kingdom that there was an invisible vapor floating through the air. Many vapors had come before, but this one was so extraordinary, it called for an extraordinary response.

    This vapor, the town criers cried, could kill you at any time, anywhere. You could get it by talking, breathing, or singing. You could get it by standing or walking too closely to someone. You could even get it by playing. And the scariest thing of all—you could get it and not even know you had it.

    The only way to escape was to hide indoors, keep away from people, and rub your hands with a clear jelly every time you touched something. Merchants stopped trading, apprentices stopped learning, and people stopped seeing people.

    Every day, the town criers yelled out the number of people who had caught the vapor, although most didn’t know it since they felt the same as usual—just a lot more scared. They only learned they had it because of a certain spell a sorcerer had written down before the vapor came.
    ….
    https://off-guardian.org/2021/08/22/the-vapor-the-hot-hat-the-witches-potion/

  6. joe2.5 says:

    That’s stupid. There was no real lockdown. A lockdown for an aerosol-transmitted, highly contagious, age-dependent lethality gradient disease can only be successful if done exactly the way the Chinese did it. Timely, ie not too late. Total isolation of suspect and at-risk cases instead of pseudo-quarantines. Loss of income protection. Total mobilization of all national resources, ie mobilizing as for biowarfare. Only that can be called effective lockdown, as the Chinese made blindingly clear. No vaccine can remedy that — not with any virus belonging to this family.
    One gets sick and tired to hear continuous nonsense from all the unqualified and the mercenary establishment medicine. Go bargain with the virus if you want a discount. Perhaps you’ll sweet-talk the coronavirus into it.

  7. BuelahMan says:

    I have no way of knowing, but something tells me ole Ted is fully vaccinated.

    Why? Because most of us understand that the jabs are the very reason for the huge uptick in deaths. Those who are vaccinated are invested and cannot explain the obvious.

    • Agree: Notsofast
  8. With Black students five months behind where they would have been otherwise, and white students two months back, virtual instruction was virtually educational.

    So, what’s the deal with capitalizing Black, but not capitalizing white?

    Makes me think immediately of the Gell-Mann amnesia. Should I even continue reading?

    • Replies: @Wokechoke
    , @meamjojo
  9. Anonymous[266] • Disclaimer says:

    What happened to “flattening the curve”? The more Fauci touts vaccination, the farther from vaccination I am. On the bright side, he’s told us that going on Grindr for anonymous gay sex is perfectly fine. Sorry but this adult doesn’t need Daddy Fauci to make his decisions for him.

  10. Wokechoke says:

    How the fuck has Biden avoided the various waves of the virus so far?

    • Replies: @meamjojo
  11. Wokechoke says:
    @siberiancat

    Black students are back in the Stone Age. No fixing that.

  12. SafeNow says:

    cost-benefit analysis of the COVID lockdown requires hard data that won’t be available for years

    The data have long been available, if the money had been spent to gather it. “Logistically difficult” and “for years” are euphemisms for “Golly, jeepers, that would sure be an expensive study.” Two sentences later the essayist mentions that the lockdown cost has been “ staggering.” So of course it would have been economically sensible to study lockdowns definitively. And masking. And air exchangers. And so on.

  13. Notsofast says:
    @meamjojo

    50,000,000 is a good sized control group, stand your ground, they won’t be able to ignore all the side effects and resulting deaths forever, that is if science is ever allowed to be practiced again.

  14. meamjojo says:
    @siberiancat

    So, what’s the deal with capitalizing Black, but not capitalizing white?

    Yeah, I refuse to participate with that BS. I’ve noticed in various MSM comment boards that they don’t modify reader posts to conform to this idiotic new rule but of course, follow it in all their articles I assume because they don’t want to be hounded by the so-called “woke’ on social media.

  15. meamjojo says:
    @Wokechoke

    There really aren’t waves of contamination! The PCR generate huge numbers of false positives, which they then call “cases” and which give the MSM some scaremongering news to promote.

    But come the end of this month, the RT-PCR tests gets retired as a Covid diagnostic tool. Which I think means they have to rely on the instant tests that are even less accurate and most people won’t report their self-test results to the government/health officials in their county if they come up positive.

    The case count should drop dramatically in January, which the Dems hope will help them in the midterm elections but the Dems are mostly beyond help at this point.

  16. Mr. Rall writes an essay which is extremely critical of the past “lockdown” efforts. I couldn’t help but notice he didn’t offer any alternatives to this ‘short of an unqualified success’.

    Could he not make suggestions to do ‘lockdowns’ better on a second try?

    Did he have any ideas at all about masks, ventilation, or selective shutdowns of noisy and crowded areas like Churches and Bars and Arenas?

    If he thinks that nothing whatever should be done about the Covid virus except to “let her rip”, why didn’t he come right out and say so?

    • Replies: @Bro43rd
  17. Good to see a lefty who can admit his mistakes. If only Preznit Brandon, Doc-tator Falsie, and Goober-tators like Gruesome and Witless could.

    But “a mortality rate of 1.6%”? Still some learning to do…

  18. Bro43rd says:
    @Zachary Smith

    And don’t forget those bastions of safety, the mostly peaceful protests.

  19. At today’s Naked Capitalism site were two Covid links I consider to be worth examining.

    To Fight COVID-19, Asia Increasingly Turns to Traditional Medicine
    https://thediplomat.com/2021/12/to-fight-covid-19-asia-increasingly-turns-to-traditional-medicine/

    If Plant X has a history of being a useful treatment for colds or flu, why not have a supply on hand in case you get stricken by Covid?

    A new drug to treat covid could create a breeding ground for mutant viruses
    Merck’s molnupiravir is good at one thing — and that’s what makes it scary
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/12/24/merck-molnupiravir-antiviral-covid-fda/

    Ever since I first heard of this new drug, I became skeptical. IMO the FDA has done more harm than good in this pandemic.

    This Scientist Created a Rapid Test Just Weeks Into the Pandemic. Here’s Why You Still Can’t Get It.
    https://www.propublica.org/article/this-scientist-created-a-rapid-test-just-weeks-into-the-pandemic-heres-why-you-still-cant-get-it

    The link describes a screwup by the Trump-FDA, but is it possible to claim the Biden-FDA has done any better? Not that I’ve seen.

  20. One-off says:

    This is the United States’ Chernobyl, the moment the populace realized the system not only lied but was beyond reform and needed to be pulled out root and branch. It is time for people to laugh and spit in the faces of Fauci and his clueless political pawns. A price has to be extracted and it starts with marginalizing this scum and its ignorant hangers-on and religious fanatics.

  21. “The political impulse to cancel events and close nonessential services we experienced during the spring and summer of 2020 is reemerging as the highly contagious, albeit anecdotally less severe, omicron variant sweeps through New York City and other hotspots.”

    Really?? Got any real proof that a brand new variant never mentioned before a few weeks ago is “highly contagious”? I assume you have no proof and just take the media’s word for it. Besides, does your “sweeps through new york city” really just mean 30 or so people actually sick? Just like “hospitals overwhelmed” were empty and they had enough time to make thousands of tic tok videos. Overwhelmed indeed.

    What are you going to tell us blacks suffer more than Whites because of racist medicine or some other tripe?

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