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What's the Real Story Behind Continuing Lockdowns?

Michigan Office of the Governor via AP

In March, Americans started to stay at home in what began as a voluntary movement. Governments issued lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, but Americans understood the threat of the Wuhan Chinese coronavirus from China was significant enough to take drastic measures. Thanks to these measures, America’s health care system was not overwhelmed by the global pandemic, and Americans across the country are demanding an end to the lockdowns.

Embattled Democratic governors are defending extended coronavirus lockdowns by citing the all-important “science.” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.), for example, told CNN, “The fact of the matter is, we’re in a global pandemic. This isn’t something we just negotiate ourselves out of and it’s a political matter. … I am going to continue to do my job regardless of what tweets come out or what polls come out or what people think makes sense. We’re going to listen to facts and science because we’ve got to get this right.”

This is a tremendous dodge. Lockdowns are a fundamentally political decision. When medical professionals insist that people wash their hands and avoid large gatherings, they provide an important service. When the government tells citizens they cannot leave their homes, go to work, go to church, or get a haircut, however, it is going beyond the bounds of medical science.

Governors justified the lockdowns by focusing on “flattening the curve.” That meant slowing the transmission of the disease to prevent the kind of medical-system collapse experienced in Wuhan and Northern Italy. This goal has arguably been achieved. New York did not run out of ventilators. The U.S.N.S. Comfort left New York harbor recently. Over the weekend, the city’s health system announced that it could finally kick out the Samaritan’s Purse relief hospital which served more than 300 coronavirus patients — one day after the City Council spokesman condemned the Christian organization as “hateful.”

Early estimates of the COVID-19 death rate, cited to justify the lockdowns, have proven far too pessimistic. In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated a 3.4 percent fatality rate and Dr. Anthony Fauci estimated that the fatality rate of the coronavirus was about 2 percent. As PJ Media’s Matt Margolis reported, at least five studies have placed the death rate below 1 percent, confirming President Donald Trump’s hunch.

Recent studies have found that far more people than expected have COVID-19 antibodies — meaning the virus has spread faster than previously thought, but also proving that it is far less deadly than previously thought.

Furthermore, a recent study showed that Democratic governors were three times more likely than Republican governors to impose a lockdown. This would make sense, given the Democratic control over many population centers experiencing large outbreaks: New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., for example. However, the study found that “counterintuitively, the percentage of the state’s population infected with COVID-19 had the weakest effect on the governors’ decisions of all the four variables.”

The study found that the three most significant variables were political affiliation (a heavy slant toward Democrats), “social learning” (governors of states afflicted by COVID-19 later acted much faster than governors of states who were afflicted early on), and “mini-cascades” (the actions of some governors sparked multiple other governors to order lockdowns in the next three days).

Both social learning and mini-cascades shine a light on how news of the coronavirus’ danger spread. As states with coronavirus hot spots reacted, other states followed suit, preparing for outbreaks of their own.

Yet the political slant is also extremely significant, especially considering the different ways state and local officials have carried out their lockdowns. Greenville, Miss. Mayor Errick Simmons notoriously defended his ban on drive-in church services that led to parishioners facing $500 fines. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to “permanently” close churches and synagogues unless they comply with his orders — and he issued a disgusting threat to the Jewish community in particular. Andy Berke, mayor of Chattanooga, Tenn., banned drive-in church services even though Tennessee’s governor permitted them. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear dispatched the State Police against a church hosting a drive-in service. Police in Virginia threatened a pastor with a year in jail for hosting a socially-distanced church service, enacting Gov. Ralph Northam’s order.

All these political leaders belong to the same party: the Democratic Party. Not all of the onerous coronavirus restrictions that violate religious freedom have been issued by Democrats, but there is a disturbing correlation between the left-wing party and crisis orders that single out churches, synagogues, and mosques. It seems one party is more likely than the other to think of religion as less than “essential,” and much of that animus traces back to the mistaken idea that religion (Christianity in particular) and science are in conflict.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress repeatedly obstructed relief efforts in an attempt to push their pet projects and never let a good crisis go to waste. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has called the coronavirus crisis a “wake-up call” on climate change and an “opportunity” for “structural change” on voting and climate change.

Liberals often use “science” as a talking-point to advocate their agendas, even if those agendas arguably conflict with the best science (see abortion, climate predictions, and transgender activism). It appears the tide of science is turning on coronavirus lockdowns, and Democrats are not adjusting with it. As Republicans suggest plans to slowly reopen America while preserving tight social-distancing measures, Democrats insist that the full lockdowns must continue.

While the lockdowns began as a public health measure, their continued extension appears to have more to do with power than safety.

Take Whitmer for instance. Michigan’s governor has decreed that stores cannot sell gardening supplies and she has forbidden people from traveling between homes that they own.

On Thursday, Whitmer sought to extend her emergency declaration, the legal grounds for her tyrannical stay-at-home orders. As Michiganders flocked to Lansing to protest, Republicans in the state legislature refused to grant the governor her extension. She responded by making another emergency declaration herself, attempting to override the legislature.

But sure, her restrictions are all about “science.” No power or politics to see here. Move along.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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UPDATED: Armed Protesters Flood Michigan Capitol as Whitmer Attempts to Override State Legislature