Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, speaking as a surrogate for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, said that a future round of coronavirus lockdowns must remain “on the table.” Many European countries, facing the throes of another spike in coronavirus cases, have instituted another round of lockdown measures. Buttigieg said Biden should be open to another round of lockdowns, even though it appears lockdown measures do not prevent coronavirus waves.
“Some countries in Europe, such as the U.K. and France and Germany, are actually reinstituting lockdowns,” CNN’s Jake Tapper noted on Sunday. He asked Buttigieg, “If Joe Bien wins, should another lockdown be on the table?”
“Well, hopefully, it doesn’t come to that because we will see swift action coordinating with and supporting public health authorities, telling us what we can do as citizens without requiring any kind of mandates,” Buttigieg responded.
“But everything has to be on the table in order to keep Americans safe,” he insisted.
Democrat Pete Buttigieg says if Joe Biden wins, a nationwide lockdown is “on the table.”
Don’t let Joe Biden shut down our economy. VOTE! pic.twitter.com/Io1K1kqNxW
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) November 1, 2020
This position is arguably in line with Biden’s statement that he is open to imposing new lockdowns.
This election is a choice between a BIDEN LOCK DOWN or a TRUMP BOOM.
Joe Biden said he would “shut it down” again just like Europe. Biden’s plan will kill the American dream! pic.twitter.com/eVe1BvQc6R
— Trump War Room – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) October 30, 2020
It sounds very noble to support lockdown measures if they will save lives, but according to a study from Just Facts, the anxiety from the media exaggerations of coronavirus lethality and the social-distancing and lockdown measures will cost seven times as many years of life that the lockdowns could potentially save.
Macabre as it may seem, the best medical practices suggest that Americans should weigh health responses in terms of years of life lost or years of life saved. Every human life is precious and every death is a tragedy, but when it comes to weighing different health policies, the loss of the elderly and infirm — who are most likely to contract and die from the coronavirus disease — represent fewer years of life lost than the young and healthy.
Lockdowns breed anxiety, which carries a long-term cost that is difficult to measure. That said, Just Facts compared the years of life lost due to coronavirus anxiety and depression (including anxiety and depression from the lockdowns) and found it a much higher cost than the benefit of years of life saved due to lockdowns.
The threat of coronavirus anxiety and depression has impacted at least 42,873,663 adults and it will rob them of at least 1.3 years of life per person, thus destroying 55.7 million years of life, according to the study.
The effectiveness of lockdowns is extremely difficult to measure, but Just Facts took the highest estimate for potential effectiveness by comparing Sweden’s death rate to the death rate of Finland, a 6.4 ratio back in May. This significantly overstated the effectiveness of lockdowns, since COVID-19 has had second waves in European countries that instituted lockdowns.
Since COVID-19 robs an average of 12 years of life from its victims, the lockdowns could save no more than 7.4 million years of life. Meanwhile, the anxiety and stress of the pandemic will cost 42.9 million Americans an average of 1.3 years of life, thus destroying 55.7 million years of life.
The coronavirus anxiety and stress cost at least 7.5 times more in terms of years of life than the lockdowns could possibly save, even assuming the best about the lockdowns.
While the coronavirus pandemic is deadly and serious, other maladies cost far more in terms of years of life . If 240,000 Americans die from the coronavirus, the virus will destroy about 2.9 million years of life from Americans who were alive at the beginning of 2020. This sounds catastrophic, but the annual influenza robs Americans of roughly 35 million years of life, while suicides destroy about 132 million years of life every year, and accidents destroy 409 million years of life annually.
Every death is tragic, but America does not lock down the economy to fight the flu or to prevent accidents.
Furthermore, it is likely the coronavirus lockdowns contributed to the deadly riots this summer, which proved the most destructive (in terms of insurance claims) in U.S. history. Research suggests that mandated isolation can impact brain patterns, increasing an individual’s stress, aggression, and fear. Increasing stress can lead to depression and even suicide, while increased aggression and fear can lead people to act out against perceived injustice by looting and rioting.
The lockdowns also severely crippled America’s economy, even though it appears to be coming back.
It sounds noble to be willing to shut down the economy to save even one life, but in the larger scheme of things, it is important to take into account the negative effects of the lockdowns and balance them with the positives. If the lockdowns would cost about as many years of life as they would potentially save, then America’s policymakers must reconsider taking actions that would cripple the economy and potentially unleash more unrest.
Team Biden has insisted that Joe Biden would handle the coronavirus pandemic better than Donald Trump, but Trump’s administration has arguably done everything an administration can to fight this pandemic. Trump partnered with the private sector to develop testing, to ensure America does not fall short of ventilators, and to begin developing a vaccine. Operation Warp Speed may make history by crafting a vaccine in record time — vaccines often take 3-5 years, while a coronavirus vaccine is likely to be finished around 1 year after research began.
In the meantime, Americans likely need to learn to live with the coronavirus. Every American should take precautions like social distancing, wearing masks when in close proximity with others indoors (and especially where air is recirculated), and maintaining good hygiene with frequent hand-washing and use of sanitizer. Companies would be wise to offer more remote work options.
All that said, another round of lockdowns would probably cost far more than they would be worth. With all due respect to health experts, politicians have to balance fighting the spread of the coronavirus with the other negative results of depression, economic struggle, and urban unrest.
Another round of lockdowns should be politically untenable, and very much off the table. It is terrifying that a presidential candidate might still be open to lockdowns at this time.
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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