You see it every night on the news: a ticker with the cumulative death toll from the coronavirus. Yet you don’t see the other side of the equation: the number of deaths resulting from the lockdowns imposed ostensibly to fight the coronavirus.
More and more medical professionals are recognizing the severe damage the lockdowns have caused to present and future public health. A worldwide collection of medical and public health experts has just issued a declaration stating that current “lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health” and that to keep “these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.”
This Great Barrington Declaration argues that public health policy should instead focus on protecting vulnerable parts of the population, such as the elderly and infirm while allowing the rest of the public to return to normal life to build up herd immunity. Within a few days, almost 32,000 medical and public health professionals had signed the declaration.
Its authors’ argument is reinforced by increasing evidence that the lockdowns have not had any effect on reducing deaths from the coronavirus, and may in fact increase the number of coronavirus deaths by delaying the point at which enough people have built up an immune response to slow its spread. Even the World Health Organization is now admitting lockdowns are rarely an effective response to the pandemic.
The Human Cost of Lockdowns
This critical information does not seem to have permeated the larger public, however. No news ticker will display the number of lockdown-induced fatalities. In part, this is due to the pervasive bias of the mainstream media in supporting Democrats’ lockdown policies.
But it is also due to the nature of the message. Deaths from the Wuhan virus are a single number from a single cause, but deaths due to the lockdowns come from many different sources, such as:
- Depression and mental illness
- Delays in preventative medical care, including deaths from cancer and postponed vaccinations
- Drug and other opioid abuse
- Domestic violence and child abuse
- Cardiovascular disease and stroke due to unemployment
- Reduced average life span from other causes due to unemployment
- Multi-causal mortality increases from recession and poverty in general
Attempts have been made to pull these diverse causalities into one model. A group of South African actuaries advised their government that a lockdown would cost 29 lives for every one life saved from the virus. A U.K. government study estimated more conservatively that the ratio would be four-to-one — with lockdowns causing 200,000 fatalities while saving only 50,000 people from death by COVID-19.
To get this message across, we need such a number for the United States. To penetrate the media barrier and general public miasma about this disease, we need to be able to present this formulation: For every X lives that continued lockdowns might save, X + Y lives will be lost due to those very lockdowns.
Fortunately, there is someone in the White House now who knows exactly what is needed. In May, before he joined the COVID-19 task force, Dr. Scott Atlas and several colleagues published an excellent article in The Hill surveying the extensive public health costs of the economic collapse resulting from the lockdowns.
In an interview about the article, Atlas noted that he and his colleagues did “not do any sort of model or complex hypothetical projection. We looked at established retrospective data that has been done that is empirical that correlates loss of economic productivity, unemployment, and similarly, the health care losses that we went through.”
Now we need a model that will pull together all the factors to let us make a life-for-life, death-for-death comparison of the threat of this disease versus the horrific costs of lockdowns as a therapy. A therapy that results in more harm than good is no therapy at all, but we need a number to make that salient to the public.
Enough with the Partisan ‘Experts’
Of course, the left and the media will attack any number put forward by Atlas or anyone else who does not openly despise President Donald Trump. Of necessity, any such model will be based on estimates and assumptions, and it will require projections since the lockdown-related health damage will continue for years and decades. It will, however, get the topic of costly lockdown tradeoffs into the public consciousness.
This will have another effect on the conversation. Joe Biden has declared he will impose a national lockdown if “that’s what the scientists say” we need. A debate over the public health costs of the lockdowns will vividly demonstrate how little Biden and his fellow Democrats understand science. Science requires many points of view, rigorously tested, and challenged to arrive at any type of conclusion. A “science” of politically correct groupthink is worthless and not real science at all.
That means policymakers cannot abdicate their responsibilities to “experts.” Experts disagree, as they should. It is Biden’s choice to pick advisors like Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who would have us locked down until the coronavirus has effectively disappeared and who makes money off of lockdown consulting. Biden bears responsibility for heeding those partisans rather than the thousands of signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration.
These blindered public health “experts,” such as Dr. Anthony “hunker down” Fauci, see nothing but the coronavirus death numbers, choosing to ignore the massive costs of the Democrats’ lockdowns. While the left continues to fetishize technocratic expertise, blindly deferring to those elites rather than accepting democratic accountability for their policy choices, their lockdowns continue, leaving a rising death toll in their wake.