AMAC Exclusive – By Louis J. Senn
When U.S. District Judge Kathryn Mizelle tossed out the federal government’s transportation mask mandate earlier this week, many Americans (and airline workers) joyously celebrated the end of one of the last remaining COVID-19 restrictions. But even as the country can now look forward to no longer having to wear masks on planes – assuming, of course, that the Biden administration’s appeal of the ruling fails – the tragic consequences of the past two years of COVID-19 policies, and particularly draconian lockdowns, are just starting to come into full focus.
Many have watched in horror as the Chinese Communist Party pursues more lockdowns in Shanghai following a spike in cases. For many in America, the horrific scenes emerging from inside the city have brought back to life a memory that has likely already begun to fade: March of 2020. It was an eerie time as every religious, school, and social activity was canceled indefinitely. A trip to the grocery store felt post-apocalyptic. The streets were vacant.
And then, we thought, it was finally behind us. Thanks to President Trump’s Project Airbridge and Operation Warp Speed, the country was able to gear up to massively increase PPE and medical equipment supplies and then distribute vaccines to everyone who wanted one, all in the span of just a few months.
But for many on the left, this was only the beginning of the descent into outright tyranny. It was only after massive public backlash and dreadful polling that some Democrat leaders at the state level reluctantly began lifting lockdowns and restrictions on businesses.
Was it all worth it, though? Did the lockdowns really save lives, and were the side effects of killing millions of jobs and keeping people locked in their homes really that effective?
Put simply, it appears that the prolonged lockdowns after the initial wave did not reduce death or slow the spread of COVID-19. As some states started to reopen in the early part of the pandemic, many doomsayers suggested they would rue the decision and claimed these governors were putting their citizens at risk. However, the reality is that the states that reopened did not see any significant increase in either infections or deaths compared to the states that remained locked down.
Florida was one of the first states to remove lockdown restrictions and then return kids to school in the Fall of 2021. When Governor Ron DeSantis began to reopen the state, the media suggested that he was callous and would harm Floridians. However, a recent study listed Florida as one of the top-performing states overall when considering the metrics of economic recovery, the COVID death rate, and the progress of children in school.
In stark contrast, California and New York were some of the last to reopen schools and businesses. Both states persisted with some of the most stringent pandemic policies. Unsurprisingly, the same study ranked both states near the bottom when it comes to performance handling the virus.
The comparison between Florida and other states with strict lockdowns forced even the New York Times to admit last year that “Florida’s death rate is no worse than the national average and better than that of some other states that imposed more restrictions, despite its large numbers of retirees.”
The reality increasingly looks to be that no matter how stringent the lockdowns were, it would be difficult for any government to stop or even slow the spread of the virus. From a public health perspective, the evidence says harsh lockdowns (employed mostly by blue states) were no better or worse at preventing people from catching COVID-19 than taking common-sense actions to protect the vulnerable while allowing most people to return to life as normal (employed mostly by red states).
However, the question of whether or not lockdowns are a good idea goes beyond even the immediate and obvious effects of COVID. In particular, the lockdowns in the U.S. and around the world have had drastic consequences on mental health, especially among young people. Studies from the U.K. showed that depression in adults was already spiking as early as June of 2020. Studies in our own country alarmingly showed similar data in June 2020 that nearly half of adults were struggling with some form of mental health issues or substance abuse. Furthermore, a quarter of adults aged 18-24 reported they had suicidal thoughts in between May and June of 2020.
What’s worse, those numbers don’t appear to be getting better, even as life returns mostly to normal. A recent study by the CDC showed that nearly half of high school students suffer “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness” while 1 in 5 high school students “seriously considered attempting suicide.” There was also an alarming rise in attempted suicides by teen girls in 2020 and 2021. In the summer of 2020, visits to the ER due to suicide attempts by teen girls were up 26% and were up 50% by the winter of 2021. While there’s likely more than one cause for this burgeoning mental health crisis, the correlation between this phenomenon and the onset of pandemic restrictions cannot be ignored.
Pandemic lockdowns also appear to be linked to a dramatic increase in substance abuse and drug overdoses. 2020 marked the first time that deaths due to drug overdoses surpassed 100,000. The number of teenagers who died from a drug overdose nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020, a figure that stayed consistent last year. Experts attribute this rise across the board to stress related to the pandemic. While the Biden administration’s open border policies are partially responsible for allowing massive amounts of drugs to enter the country, it was the pandemic lockdowns that led to widespread hopelessness and despair, ultimately proving in many cases to be a far more deadly disease than the virus itself.
As President Trump wisely stated early on during the pandemic, “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” Extended lockdowns proved to be just that. Americans should not forget the harm wrought on their communities by these policies, which were overwhelmingly perpetuated by elected Democrats. They should keep all this in mind the next time a politician asks for “temporary emergency powers,” and most importantly, when they head to the ballot box this November.
Louis J. Senn is a lawyer living in Louisville, Kentucky. He previously served in the Trump administration.