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The Federalist, 9.9.20
Project Fortress, 9.11.20
By Alan W. Dowd

“I would shut it down,” Vice President Joe Biden recently promisedwhen asked how he would respond to COVID19 flareups. “I would listen to the scientists.” After experimenting with that option in March and April, President Donald Trump has vowed, “We won’t be closing the country again.”

The Trump-Biden divergence on this issue provides a clarifying distinction as Americans head into the homestretch of the presidential election. But what about gubernatorial, mayoral and school-board elections, and what about elections beyond 2020? Knowing where a candidate stands on this issue—which affects literally every American—will be important for years to come. As such, Americans on either side of the COVID19 divide—those who believe it’s their duty to take individual responsibility, who recall that America didn’t shut down during the pandemics of 1957 or 1968, who believe life must go on to preserve individual liberty, as well as those who believe it’s their duty to promote social responsibility, who view COVID19 as more deadly than past pandemics, who believe life must change to preserve public health—would benefit from knowing how elected chief-executives would respond to the next COVID19 spike, pandemic or flu.

Living
This is important for three main reasons.

First, China’s intentions or incompetence will likely unleash another virus on the world in the years to come. H5N1,SARS and COVID19are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths globally; each began in China. We now know that Xi Jinping’s regime lied about human-to-human transmission of COVID19; allowed thousands to leave Wuhan for destinations around the world; ordered scientists not to share findings about coronavirus-genome sequencing; and carried out a premeditated plan to hoard 2.5 billion pieces of medical gear as the virus swept the globe. In short, China is an ends-justify-the-means regime that has disdain for human life and norms of behavior—a place where physicians are arrested and left to die for trying to live up to the oaths of medicine; where Christians are sent to reeducation camps; where Buddhist temples are bulldozed; where Uighur Muslim men are herded into concentration camps, Uighur women are forcibly sterilized and Uighur babies are forcibly aborted. As dissident leader Xu Zhangrun observes, “A polity that is blatantly incapable of treating its own people properly can hardly be expected to treat the rest of the world well.”

Second, once our government takes a certain action, it’s easier and more likely for it to take that action again. The first action serves as precedent for succeeding actions.

Third, government-ordered shutdowns in response to COVID19 have done more damage than the disease itself. But don’t take my word for it.

“History will say trying to control COVID19 through lockdown was a monumental mistake on a global scale,” concludes Mark Woolhouse, a member of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pandemic advisory team. “The cure was worse than the disease.”

Indeed, the lockdown way of life is an enemy of life and living.

The lockdowns effectively prevented hundreds of millions of Americans from gathering together for worship, cost tens of millions their jobs and permanently shuttered more than 100,000 U.S. businesses (and counting). The isolation, job loss and depression triggered by the lockdowns will lead to 75,000 deaths from drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide. (Not even $3.2 trillion in deficit spending—since March—can rescue them from the despair.)

Millions of surgeries have been delayed. Heart-attack death rates have spiked not because of COVID19, but because fear of COVID19 kept patients away from needed care. Researchers project 10,000 “excess” cancer deaths in America as a result of delayed screening caused by lockdowns. Half of cancer patients have missed chemotherapy treatments; transplants are down almost 85 percent; emergency stroke evaluations are down 40 percent.

Brookings concludes, “The COVID19 episode will likely lead to a large, lasting baby bust…a drop of perhaps 300,000 to 500,000 births in the U.S” next year. This is not a function of deaths among women of childbearing age, but rather a function of despair and uncertainty.

Domestic violence and childhood malnutrition have surged during the lockdown. Some 212,500 cases of child abuse have gone unreported due to the lockdown—a consequence of kids not being in school, where abuse is often first detected. Indeed, we may never be able to quantify the costs of a year without classroom instruction, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics calls for reopening schools. Data—not wildly inaccurate computer models—tell us why doctors say it’s safe to return to classroom instruction: COVID19 poses virtually no risk to Americans younger than 24, with that age group representing just 0.1 percent of COVID19 deaths. In fact, Americans younger than 14 account for statistically 0 percent of COVID19 deaths. Yet governors, mayors and school boards apparently know more than pediatricians about child wellbeing.

Dying

Rather than closing the schools, quarantining the healthy and idling the economy, Sunetra Gupta, an Oxford University professor of infectious-disease epidemiology, has argued for months that we must find “a way of living with this virus.” Indeed, both history and science tell us that the lockdown way of life isn’t the answer to pandemics. Yes, COVID19’s infection-mortality rate was initially thought to be 3.4 percent, which understandably terrified policymakers. But as we learned more about the virus, the actual infection-mortality rate rapidly emerged in the data: The virus kills between 0.1 percent and 0.4 percent of those infected, as the Hoover Institution’s Scott Atlas explained in congressional testimony.

The seasonal flu, by comparison, kills about 0.1 percent of those infected. So, those of us who argue that government reaction to COVID19 is at best ahistorical and at worst draconian must concede that COVID19 could be more deadly than the flu. At the same time, those who support federal, state and local government responses to COVID19 must concede that COVID19 is definitively not another Spanish Flu. It’s not even another H2N2 pandemic, which killed 0.67 percentof those infected in 1957.

In raw numbers, COVID19 has claimed more than 182,000 Americans (out of a population of 331.3 million). That sounds like a high death toll, until we compare it to that 1957 pandemic, which claimed 116,000 Americans (out of a population of 171 million). Project the 1957 pandemic’s lethality onto today’s population, and it would be equivalent to 225,000 deaths. Put another way, even with the expansive accounting methods used by New York, Colorado, Washington and key federal officials (who argue that dying withCOVID19 is the same as dying from COVID19), this disease is less deadly than the 1957 flu. But again, don’t take my word for it. “The overall clinical consequences of COVID19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1 percent) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968).” Those words are Anthony Fauci’s.

The numbers and Fauci’s assessment force us to ponder the policy reactions triggered by COVID19. We didn’t close churches, schools or businesses, cancel sports seasons, or amass staggering debt in response to pandemics in 1957 or 1968. But we did in 2020. Is this the new-normal response to viruses?

Running

Candidates at every level of government should follow the lead of President Trump and Vice President Biden—and go on the record answering that question. Lockdown opponents could call it the “Liberty from Lockdowns Pledge.” Lockdown supporters could call it the “Pandemic Protection Pledge.” Similar pledges help Americans know where policymakers stand on taxation, abortion, fossil fuels, the Second Amendment, Social Security, campaign finance. The list goes on.

Importantly, there are Democratic and Republican officials who support the lockdown way of life, and there are Democratic and Republican officials who oppose the lockdown way of life. In other words, this isn’t a political issue so much as a philosophical one. These pledges would serve as a way for us to educate ourselves about the philosophical bent of those vying to run our school boards, cities, states and country.