Issues & Insights

One Swedish Model To Copy: No More COVID-19 Lockdowns

Sweden's daily COVID-19 death toll has fallen to near zero. Source: Worldometer

We’re getting an awful lot of very bad advice from public officials about how to handle the resurgent coronavirus pandemic. All of a sudden, we’re told, we must lock down the economy again, for our own good. Common sense and experience, it seems, have flown the coop. Just look at Sweden, which avoided a lockdown and slashed its daily COVID-19 death rate.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari is the latest to create a stir by saying he favored a “really hard” four-to-six week lockdown of the economy to get the virus under control and help the economy rebound later.

The only problem is, we already had lockdowns. We were told it would be a couple of weeks, so we could “flatten the curve.” Then, even as the infection rate fell, governors and big city mayors decided to keep their economies shut.

It didn’t work, unless you count destroying people’s dreams, small businesses, jobs and life savings.

Another “really hard” lockdown? Sorry. Recent research shows the lockdowns didn’t do anything but make Americans miserable by killing small businesses by the hundreds and laying off millions of workers.

A Fed president should know better.

As economist Abigail Deveraux, a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Economic Growth, noted in a report for the American Institute for Economic Research, “it’s obvious that if you restrict and ban certain businesses, they will suffer for it. Some business owners who made it through the first wave of lockdowns are saying their businesses won’t be able to survive another. This isn’t rocket science.”

She has data to back it up here, showing that, as the title of her piece says, “Longer Lockdowns Associated with Much Worse Economic Outcomes.”

Meanwhile there are now literally dozens of studies out or in the works on the health impact the lockdowns are having on Americans. The results aren’t good.

We hit a Google search for “lockdown and mental health studies” and got 13,800 hits. We stopped reading them because, frankly, they mostly all said the same thing: While much of the data are still preliminary, it’s clear lockdowns have been a major tragedy for emotional well-being, both here and abroad.

“This is an unprecedented assault on mental health,” Roger S. McIntyre, author of one study investigating possible suicide rates due to the coronavirus, told Just The News. “I could not find anything in the history books that’s quite like this.”

He predicted as many as 5,000 to 10,000 additional suicides due to the stress, fear and joblessness from the pandemic and the economic closures.

That’s just one study. There are dozens more, most of which indicate dire health impacts ranging from obesity and sleeplessness to excessive drinking and lack of exercise.

All told, so-called pandemic “deaths of despair” from drugs, alcohol and suicide could add another 75,000 fatalities to the total, according to research from Well Being Trust, and the Robert Graham Center.

And then there are those who had medical care delayed due to the shutdowns, which forced hospitals to focus mainly on the virus. Many studies found thousands of needless deaths from postponed surgeries and other treatments, especially for heart disease.

And, no, we’re not just picking on Kashkari here. None other than media darling and the U.S. government’s No. 1 expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, suggests maybe we should be wearing goggles in addition to face masks. No, that’s not a joke.

He too is on the “lock it down again” bandwagon. He suggested this week that “states like Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Minnesota and others” seeing renewed jumps in infection should consider closing down again.

We’d give his words more credence if he had come out strongly against the recent riots and demonstrations, which are likely responsible for the uptick in infections. Indeed, the average age of those infected has dropped by more than 15 years in just a few months.

But they’re not the ones seriously at risk. People under 50 face a death risk of just 0.05%, compared to estimates of 0.4%-0.6% overall. Those over 65 are the real problem. They account for 80% of all deaths. Nursing home patients, just 0.46% of the population, make up more than 40% of all deaths.

The clear lesson here is not to paralyze the entire economy and kill tens of thousands of people from things other than the virus as a result. We should focus on protecting elderly Americans, especially those with multiple morbidity factors, such as diabetes, pulmonary disease and obesity.

Fauci, though a doctor, has been a federal bureaucrat for almost 40 years. It shows. He and others have condemned public gatherings, except when it’s Washington, D.C., grandees and politicos assembling for political purposes.

A recent example proves the point: The Georgia funeral of Rep. John Lewis, longtime congressman and former civil rights leader. All the politicians and celebrities who attended the funeral were “exempted” from having to self-quarantine for 14 days upon returning to the capital.

You know, just because. Rules are for the little people. If Fauci said something about that, we didn’t hear it.

While condemning ordinary folks for gathering, Fauci recently again got lockjaw when asked about all those “peaceful demonstrators” who refuse to observe social distancing and who wear masks but only so they can’t be identified by the police. No doubt, they’ve played a major role in the renewed spread of the coronavirus.

Average people, meanwhile, can’t visit loved ones in nursing homes or hospitals or even attend their dead relatives’ funerals. It would violate “social spacing” protocol.

In other words, one set of rules for the D.C. elite, their Hollywood pals and the suddenly fashionable BLM and Antifa, and another for the rest of us. That’s lockdown logic.

Fauci has a particular problem in that he continues to prescribe bitter medicine for the rest of us while not taking it himself.

As a recent example, he threw out the first pitch for the Washington Nationals to start their season. To his credit, Fauci dutifully wore a mask on the mound. But after he sat down, he pulled his mask down.

And yes, he was near other people. And no, he wasn’t wearing goggles.

More lockdowns? No thanks. We’d at least consider economic lockdown proposals as sincere if “public servants” such as Kashkari and Fauci had to lose their jobs, as ordinary people do. But they don’t. They never do.

Kashkari and Fauci are just two examples of this phenomenon. In the U.S., politicians, bureaucrats and public employees are untouchables, a mandarin class, meaning they’re free to tell the rest of us what to do and not follow their own advice.

As we noted here and here, our top elected officials and the media have instilled widespread fear, misreporting and exaggerating COVID-19 numbers to win our compliance. That’s certainly the case with economic lockdowns, which have served no useful purpose at all as far as we can tell.

Our lockdowns were a mistake, as Sweden’s experience shows.

No, it hasn’t been perfect. But Sweden’s government largely kept its economy open, relying on the judgment and maturity of its own citizens. There was a brief surge in cases and a big jump in deaths, and then they both fell. And continued falling. (Sweden made many of the same mistakes the U.S. made with nursing home patients, but it corrected course).

“We’ve actually seen a clearly declining trend in the number of patients in intensive care and also in the number of deaths since the middle of April,” Anna Mia Ekström, clinical professor of global infectious disease epidemiology at Stockholm’s Karolinksa Institute, told Euronews.com.

This, by the way, is how viral pandemics work. They are initially explosive in growth for a few weeks, then they start to subside.

Here in the U.S., as we noted, studies show the lockdowns did little or nothing to slow the spread of the coronavirus – masking up and social distancing did – but they did hurt the economy.

Our recent progress against the pandemic was partly undone by the wild and undisciplined behavior of the far-left as it demonstrated, rioted and burned America’s cities, spreading the Chinese bug.

We should follow Sweden’s model, ending the purposeless economic shutdowns. Common sense dictates that the best course is to continue masking where necessary, and maintaining social distancing. Meanwhile, like the Swedes, we should open our economy. And now, while we still have one to open.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board.

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1 comment

  • Lock downs and quarantines of the healthy have done the exact opposite of their good intentions. The road to Hell, indeed.

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