Issues & Insights
COVID-19 virus. Source: Centers for Disease Control

COVID-19 Lockdowns Have Been A Disaster — End Them Now

Lockdowns to slow or even halt the coronavirus pandemic have been the focus of an intense debate since early this year. But in recent weeks and months, both the scientific and economic discussions have come down hard on one side: The lockdowns have been an immense failure, costing the economy trillions of dollars and, more importantly, thousands of lives. Time to put an end to this craziness.

For those who don’t recall, the initial lockdowns were sold to the public as an emergency move to “flatten the curve” for 15 days during March to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Americans, wanting to do their part, grudgingly agreed to the two-week suspension of normal economic and social activities.

Unfortunately, governors used the opportunity to keep their economies closed indefinitely, in some cases clearly for political reasons. In California, where the shutdown has been devastating, recent re-opening guidelines included “equity measures” ranging from gauging neighborhoods’ “tree canopy” to alcohol availability and voting statistics.

To be absolutely clear, these benchmarks have nothing whatsoever to do with COVID-19. They are merely an effort by far-left California Gov. Gavin Newsom to pander to his increasingly extreme base of voters.

Such arbitrary actions have severe economic consequences. A recent research paper from the American Institute for Economic Research found substantial damage to the U.S. economy’s various sectors at the state, local and national levels. including measures of GDP, imports, exports, business formations, unemployment, industrial output and capacity use,

The data showed a catastrophic plunge in economic activity beginning late in the first quarter and accelerating in the second quarter, with double-digit declines in almost all major categories, including GDP. The hit was worse than the 2007-2008 Great Recession.

And the devastation will linger for years.

“The lockdown, imposed at various levels, has had a profound impact on every aspect of commerce,” the report said. “Unlike models and other popular representations of business activity, the economy is not a machine and cannot be ‘shut down’ and ‘restarted’ at will; many of the firms which have closed will never reopen, and for uncountable others reacquiring former levels of productivity will be a daunting task, if even possible. So too will many of the unemployed see an inexorable change in the lifetime trajectory of their earnings and wealth.”

Meanwhile, to drive home the point: “States with brief or no lockdown measures (e.g., South Dakota and Nebraska) experienced the smallest degrees of economic damage.”

 Lest you think this is just about the economy, it isn’t.

Jay Bhattacharya, the director of Stanford’s Program on Medical Outcomes and its Center on the Demography and Economics of Health and Aging, told Just The News investigative reporter John Solomon recently that it was “shocking” so many countries shut down for the pandemic without really “think(ing) about both the costs and benefits.”

The psychological toll of shutting down civilization has had little if any coverage. A study of Swiss data for the journal European Psychiatry found 2.1% of the population will “suffer an average of 9.79” years of life lost due to problems of depression, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, spousal and child abuse, and other social ills.

The U.S. has experienced a similar phenomenon.

“The lockdowns led to wide unemployment and economic recession, resulting in increased drug and alcohol abuse and increases in domestic abuse and suicides,” wrote Joel Zinsberg, a medical doctor and lawyer and a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“Most studies in a systematic literature review found a positive association between economic recession and increased suicides,” Zinsberg wrote in City Journal. “Data from the 2008 Great Recession showed a strong positive correlation between increasing unemployment and increasing suicide in middle aged (45–64) people. Ten times as many people texted a federal government disaster mental-distress hotline in April 2020 as in April 2019.”

Moreover, many with serious conditions have been avoiding treatment, as they were told to do by those in charge of lockdowns early on in the pandemic. Many of those who have died did so without any COVID-19 infection at all.

“Someone in the United States has a heart attack every 40 seconds, or nearly 790,000 per year,” wrote Stacey Lennox at PJ Media. “Likewise, strokes affect approximately 795,000 people, and there are 34 million Americans with diabetes. Yet as of Sept. 11, we know four in 10 adults, often those with preexisting conditions, avoided medical care.”

But at least the shutdowns slowed the spread of the virus, right? A study in the British medical journal The Lancet suggests no. It found that “Rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and wide-spread testing were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people.”

The number of deaths due to lockdowns, not the Chinese virus itself, has been estimated as high as 65,000 people a month in the U.S., making them one of the leading causes of death. More people will die from lockdowns than from COVID-19.

Of course, we could go on. Hardly a day goes by without another study showing just how awful the lockdowns are, and how ineffective. The science and the economics of COVID-19 are clear to everyone but politicians: Their responses have been massive failures.

More than 4,000 doctors and health care professionals from around the world signed the “Great Barrington Declaration” just last week, calling on politicians to let us “resume life as normal.” In a public letter, the group said “as infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.”

That is, open the economy, and focus on protecting those most at risk: the elderly and those with two or more comorbidity factors, which together make up the majority of deaths from COVID-19. Schools, restaurants, museums and other mainstays of our culture and lives should be reopened.

By the way, even the World Health Organization, which enthusiastically embraced lockdowns as an anti-virus strategy, is now having second thoughts. WHO’s special envoy on the coronavirus, Dr. David Nabarro, urged world leaders to halt “using lockdowns as your primary control method.” He cited the devastation of economies around the world, along with increased hunger and poverty, as reasons for ending the shutdowns.

Contrary to the arguments used by leftists both in and out of government, the science is quite clear and overwhelming. So are the economics. Lockdowns have failed. Time to end them here in the U.S., and elsewhere, and begin undoing the unnecessary damage caused by the closure of our societies.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.


  • I personally have postponed tests and procedures due to this Covid nonsense. It`s humiliating to be treated like a child after 6 decades on this earth and I will not participate in it.

    How long I live is not as important as how I live.

  • The hilarious part about the Democrat “Party of Science” is that Cuomo insisted we “trust the science” and forced his ridiculous and arbitrary shutdown on NY State…UNTIL the experts said shutdowns and masks didn’t work. THEN he decided he would no longer follow CDC guidelines but use his own team of “experts” in order to decree that the NYS shutdown be extended. So much for trusting the experts or the science. But what can you expect from a party of “scientists” who think humans can swap genders!? LOL!

  • Oh, those pesky unintended consequences. There will be dramatic counting up of the after effect deaths from the lockdowns on the network news shows.

    • Correction: “There be no dramatic counting up…” Sorry. Darn Wuhan flu.

  • I am often impressed with your editorials, and what you’re reading as well. But this column on the multiplicity of sources saying, “Let ’em out!” is one of your best. Your years of experience
    and your loathing of Progressive stupidity and circular reasons (not to mention all they lying
    they do) makes I&I a continual trove of true research and worthwhile opinion / analysis.

    Keep it up, Gentlemen!

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