One year ago, when lockdowns began, Americans were told we had to make a terrible choice akin to the climax of the superhero movies in which a villain threatens two things the hero loves, forcing him to choose which to save and which to sacrifice. We were told that millions of Americans were going to die from a Chinese supervirus, and the only way to reduce that death toll from inflating even higher through overloaded hospital systems was to accept other kinds of suffering. Americans thus readily agreed to “two weeks to slow the spread.”
As cases steadily rose over those two weeks, as predicted and normal with infection curves, we were told those two weeks needed to stretch into four, then six. Then the alleged Sophie’s choice shifted.
As data began to come in showing that the majority of those dangerously threatened by COVID-19 were in their last years and months of life, the equation turned into selflessly sacrificing the young and healthy to protect the old and vulnerable. People who showed any resistance to perpetual lockdowns and civil rights infringements against the healthy were told they were “grandma killers” and racist would-be “mass murderers.”
We were told the only way to save grandma was to sacrifice everything that makes life worth living for everyone else. But what if this is false? What if the equation has been different?
What if our choice has been to have some limited power to protect grandma while letting the young and healthy live their lives freely, an opportunity grandma also had? In short, what if whatever was going to happen with the vulnerable mostly did not depend on what everyone else did, if grandma’s safety did not require sacrificing junior? And what if we could have predicted this an entire year ago, when it all began?
If that were the case, why would we add to a largely fixed death toll other kinds of incalculable human suffering, including unnecessary deaths from other causes? If a child doesn’t have to die to save grandma from coronavirus, why would we ever let that child die?
Child Suicides Amid Lockdowns
ProPublica reporter Alec MacGillis published a March 8 longread that accents such questions. It’s a tale of two cities on either side of the state border between New Mexico and Texas. He explores how New Mexico lightened its lockdowns in February, but only after anguished children had taken their lives after repeatedly extended bans on sports, schooling, and just about everything else.
Two of these children lived in Hobbs, N.M. Gov. Lujan Grisham’s lockdown rules banned contact sports such as soccer and football, and prevented all middle and high schools from offering any in-person instruction until February 2021. A half-hour away in Denver City, Texas, however, schools and sports opened in summer and fall 2020. “Hobbs school officials,” MacGillis writes, “…could see open schools across the border in Texas.”
While kids endured the crappiness of so-called “online learning” in Hobbs, in Denver City kids could choose full-time, all-day normal instruction or online school. “[O]nly a few dozen of Denver City’s 492 high school students” opted for online school in fall 2020, and a few months in, all but a handful of those rejoined the classroom after seeing it was safe. “As for teachers, there was no option: Their job was in the classroom,” MacGillis writes of the Texas city.
Denver City schools spread desks four to six feet apart, allowed kids to go mask-less except in hallways or while moving about classrooms, and hosted lunch in the normal cafeteria. If a student or teacher tested positive for COVID, anyone who had been within six feet of that person unmasked for more than 15 minutes was sent home to quarantine for 10 days. Under these rules, the schools “determined that the vast share of transmissions seemed to be happening outside school, as research was finding to be the case in other places, too.”
New Mexico Could Have Opened Schools, Too
In fact, by summer 2020, research had emerged contradicting a number of initial fears about how COVID-19 interacted with children. “A growing body of evidence suggests that younger children are the least likely to transmit the virus, but that as children grow older, their capacity for transmission approaches that of adults,” MacGillis notes.
“Of the nearly 500,000 deaths in the U.S. analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of early March, 252 were among those 18 or younger — five hundredths of a percent of the total. The CDC has also recorded about 2,000 cases of an inflammatory syndrome that has afflicted some children after they contracted the virus, resulting in about 30 additional deaths,” MacGillis also notes.
The near-zero rates of child deaths with COVID were recorded in the United States since the beginning of data collection in March 2020. By August, and even months earlier, there was plenty of data to establish this trend and open schools.
The reliable information about the safety of school reopenings available by summer 2020 wasn’t limited to the near-zero rates of child deaths. It included studies that found children “infrequently” transmitted COVID to anyone. By June 14, data out of Finland and Sweden found zero deaths and only a handful of ICU hospitalizations among 1.8 million children ages 1 to 15 attending school and daycare.
Presidential COVID adviser Dr. Scott Atlas went on television pointing out this research all summer, and was fiercely attacked by Democrats and the same New York Times that in late fall 2020 began publishing articles about the research Atlas had by then for months been quoting. The only discernible reasons for this can be fear, and politics.
Atlas, of course, was an advisor to President Trump, Democrats’ enemy no. 1 up for re-election that fall. Democrats believed fear and lockdowns would help take him down, and they believe continuing to hold America hostage will allow them to implement their socialist fever dreams like a universal basic income. So they ignore this evidence. Because of these politics, children have needlessly died. How many more will it take?
The Data Was There by May, If Not Earlier
Like Hobbs, N.M. and Denver City, Texas, Finland and Sweden share a land (and sea) border and have similar demographics. Also like Hobbs and Denver City, Finland and Sweden discovered that lockdowns of children did not reduce COVID-19 dangers while also dramatically increasing other evils. They published the data showing so in June 2020, yet New Mexico still kept schools shut down, while Texas schools opened.
“The overall cumulative incidence among school-aged children in Finland and Sweden is similar even though Finland closed schools for most children and Sweden did not,” the Swedish public health agency found in June 2020. This kind of evidence prompted First World nations such as Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark to reopen their schools as early as May 2020, but not the majority of schools in the United States, most of which are still not fully open.
Hobbs had deeply experienced the downsides of lockdowns with a wave of community grief after an 11-year-old boy rode his bike into a field and took his life in April 2020, six weeks into the lockdowns already extended several times past the initial two weeks. MacGillis writes that Landon Fuller was “an outgoing kid who loved going to school and had, his mother said, struggled with the initial lockdowns.”
“We will never know the reason why,” MacGillis notes his mother said in July. “The only thing that I was able to find was in his journal, was that he had wrote that he was going mad from staying at home all the time and that he just wanted to be able to go to school and play outside with his friends.”
Even though Hobbs had planned and desired to open school in fall 2020, especially after this tragedy, New Mexico’s governor still banned schools from opening, and kids from playing sports, with one of the nation’s strictest lockdowns. Why?
Other research reinforces the growing public perception that prolonged school closures have not been based on what is best for kids and society, as their supporters claim, but on politics. Kids’ lives are being destroyed for money and power.
No, Reopening Doesn’t Require More Money
Although public schools have not spent the majority of the $54 billion December 2020 bailout or the additional $13 billion Congress sent them for COVID last spring, Democrats just passed another COVID-labeled spending spree that includes an additional $123 billion for schools. Of that near-doubling of the annual federal outlay for schooling, estimates find only about 5 percent will be spent this fiscal year.
We’re told all this money taken from debt to China our children will have to repay is needed to open schools. Yet a new study reinforces other research in finding that neither money nor local COVID infection rates are at all related to whether schools reopen or stay closed. The study examined more than 90 percent of U.S. school-age children, finding that, contrary to Democrat claims, lack of money for school sanitation isn’t a barrier to school reopening.
“[W]e find,” the researchers write in the Wall Street Journal, “that public school funding is either uncorrelated or even negatively correlated with in-person instruction…Like other studies, ours didn’t find a consistent negative relationship between Covid-19 risk in the community and the probability of reopening in person. School reopening was strongly related, however, to county-level voting patterns in the 2016 election.”
The more a county voted for Democrats, the more likely its schools were to be closed. The analysis also found that the stronger the local teachers unions — another proxy for Democrat control — the less likely the schools were to be open. The researchers conclude: “the request for funding has not been data-driven, but rather dictated by political partisanship, incentive structures, and special interests.”
Democrats lied, and children died. According to Joe Biden’s lockdown speech Thursday, they’re not done, either.
Lockdowns Have Deadly Consequences
In Hobbs, it wasn’t just 11-year-old Landon who took his life in apparent grief at his politically imposed isolation. In October, MacGillis writes, “the town learned of another life lost: an 18-year-old who had graduated from Hobbs High that spring took his life at a local park after receiving a medical discharge from the Navy.”
It still wasn’t over. After repeatedly broken promises for his sports teams and school life to return in any shape whatsoever, high-school junior and promising athlete Kooper Davis of Hobbs also died by suicide on Dec. 7.
By all accounts, Kooper was a beautiful, wonderful young man. Reading MacGillis’s lovely tribute to his life will make you weep, and it should. Kooper was clearly deeply loved by his family, who even had gotten him to a therapist, who had concluded he was doing well. Kooper’s father told MacGillis “he was sure of one thing. ‘No doubt, if my son had been in school on Monday this wouldn’t have happened.’”
It shouldn’t take children killing themselves to get football and school to start again. It was never necessary.
Similar COVID Outcomes, Very Different Rules
At the end of January 2021, as public grief at the suicides rose, Gov. Grisham shifted lockdowns to allow partial school reopenings. The week of this announcement, MacGillis compared the coronavirus rates in the two counties surrounding Hobbs and Denver City.
“The overall per-capita case numbers in Lea County were slightly higher than the three counties across the border, while the case numbers in Texas were slightly higher than in New Mexico,” he wrote. “Numerous factors had affected these outcomes, needless to say. The states had taken very different approaches with regard to their young people, but ended up in almost identical places as far as their coronavirus tolls.”
Research has established this is not an anomaly. Several peer-reviewed, published studies have found that neither lockdowns nor stricter lockdowns have correlated with lower overall COVID death and infection rates. States that never locked down, such as South Dakota, and states that reversed their lockdowns early, such as Florida, are now also showing infection and death rates are either similar or even lower than those in lockdown states.
We Were Sold a Lie that Caused Children to Die
Again, this was known to be likely before the COVID lockdowns ever happened, one reason lockdowns of the healthy have never been used before. (Another major reason is the previous respect accorded for Americans’ natural rights and civil liberties.)
Something other than reason and evidence appears to have been at work in what the world has done over the past year. And it is killing children — in addition to millions of cancer patients, up to 500,000 additional HIV patients, more than 300,000 additional malaria sufferers per year, 1.4 million additional tuberculosis patients, and hundreds of thousands more worldwide due to starvation.
When it is all said and done, it is entirely possible that lockdowns will have killed millions of people while sparing few, if any, COVID sufferers. The situation we’ve stampeded ourselves into is horrific, indeed. Kooper and Landon could still be alive today, and so could untold numbers of others whom lockdowns will continue to kill.
Kooper’s pastor, Jotty Kinney, told MacGillis the generation their nation is mistreating under false pretenses “are the people that are going to be running our country one day… They’re going to be taking care of us one day, and this is how we’re treating them?”
“They’ll remember these times,” he said. The ones who are alive will. Of the ones who aren’t, we can only promise to live in ways that honor their memory. What we’re doing now, and have done, is the opposite of what America’s kids deserve. No kids should have to die for us to see that.