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By Joe Badalamenti

In the year 2020, Americans were faced with the biggest crisis in over a decade. COVID-19 went from a regional virus to an uncontrollable pandemic spreading worldwide. The major effects of this pandemic were a national recession and widespread panic amongst American citizens. The challenges that the country faces call for courage and leadership to guide everyone through these troubling times. What we saw was the opposite. To combat the pandemic, we were given lockdowns, social distancing, mask mandates, and other restrictions that have endured in many places as we pass the one-year anniversary. When implementing such drastic changes, one should be confident that what is sacrificed leads to an outcome which is better than the alternative. However, when looking at the effects of the pandemic response, I would confidently say that the measures taken were not worth the consequences.

American political institutions, mainly state and local governments, responded to the pandemic consistent with the advice given by public health officials: mask mandates, travel bans, social distancing orders, and more. Events which could not operate according to these guidelines were told to transition to a virtual setting or shut down completely. The main reason was that these measures would flatten the curve or reduce the weekly number of hospitalizations to prevent an overflow of the healthcare system. This would also give scientists more time to investigate the risks presented by the virus. This response was reasonable if done voluntarily and exactly as planned. However, as the months went by, these measures were kept in place far past their proposed shelf life. “Two weeks to flatten the curve” become months and eventually a full year. Moreover, criticisms against these measures were treated in the media as outright falsehoods or even silenced completely. This wasn’t universal; politicians in states such as Florida and Texas did lessen these restrictions. In response, they were met with harsh criticism. One Florida health official said that the governor was “putting politics in front of lives”. Other states, such as California, New York, and Pennsylvania, either left these measures in place or only gradually repealed them. This was justified through the classic case of shifting the goalposts. As media and political figures adopted this new stance, arguments became much more hyperbolic and polarized; “Flatten the curve” became “stop the spread”, which then became “if it will save one more life”. Not even an effective vaccine is enough if we were to go by the current presidential administration’s guidelines. This may be a side effect of the partisan divide, often intensified during presidential election years, within American politics and the hyper-polarization of social media. As with other things in society, when anything controversial happens, it is either paraded as heroic or commended as evil with little room for nuance in these performative circles. For instance, someone like New York Governor Cuomo, who implemented some of the worst policies, was given a book deal, an Emmy, and was paraded as a hero by his left wing tribe. While the measures taken were not as draconian as an authoritarian nation such as China, they still lead to poor outcomes within civil society.

The results of these prolonged lockdown measures were consistent… ly bad. As common sense would dictate, when the government restricts the movements of society, the economy will suffer greatly. Since the first quarter of 2020, unemployment has skyrocketed and has still not dropped to pre-pandemic levels. The economy is not just the “economy”, but the stability of many incomes and the health of many businesses and start-ups, as well as the average life of a citizen. When an economy goes into a downturn, businesses fail and incomes diminish, leading to a lower standard of living for many. Sure, you can spend trillions of dollars, excluding funds spent on earmarks or other unnecessary spending, on stimulus packages to attempt to revive the economy, yet these efforts often extend recessions and lead to an increase in inflation. The economy wasn’t the only thing which suffered as a result of the pandemic, as the mental health of an already suffering generation went into a downward spiral. Mandatory quarantines have intensified this despair through forced isolation. This occurred as many lost their hobbies and livelihoods only for them to be replaced by poorly-suited virtual alternatives. For instance, while virtual education may work if designed correctly, the efforts of many virtual transitions were poor and riddled with technical errors and “zoom bombing”. Additionally, students lost out on many benefits of in-person education such as social interaction and hands on experience. As one statistical indicator of this decay states, a crisis mental health hotline saw an increase of 891%. The Foundation of Economic Education (FEE) also reports that emergency room mental health visits for children aged 5 to 11 and 12 to 17 have increased by 24% and 31% respectively. Finally there’s the impact on the ill and disabled. Because of both the lockdown restrictions and the shift in priorities to COVID patients, many are losing out on diagnoses and treatments. Removing important early medical testing for diseases as a result of the pandemic has hindered one of the best approaches to a patient’s healthcare: early prevention. It’s a shame that many of these consequences have been generally ignored to focus on a singular virus. As economists  tend to show, if you focus all your attention on one group or thing, other groups will suffer accordingly. There were other harms of the pandemic response, including a rise in domestic violence, a rise in drug abuse, an increase in poverty, and even the loss of liberal democracy in some countries. While there may be other harms brought about by the response, the ones mentioned have been the most harmful.

It would be unfair if I were to ignore the benefits proposed by those in favor of the prolonged measures. As many have suggested, the reason why the lockdowns have been prolonged is to reduce the number of cases/deaths from COVID. The issue with this claim is that there is scarce evidence to back it up. A recent National Review article, where per capita cases  for different states are plotted against each other, shows nearly identical graphs despite the contrast on COVID restrictions. This is even ignoring cover ups of data such as the misreporting of COVID related nursing home deaths in New York. While it may be strange to take in the data presented, there are a few explanations for these trends. First of all, some of the COVID measures are not being applied with their intended uses. For instance, the purpose of lockdowns is to delay the amount of cases contracted in order to prevent an overflow of hospitalizations, not prevent the spread of the virus entirely. Masks, on the other hand, have many criteria which must be met to be effective; for instance, the presence of facial hair makes masks ineffective. According to ABC News, too much facial hair will break the seal on certain masks such as N95 masks, reducing their efficacy. Within common guidelines, however, no one seems to be asking men to shave their beards. Some face masks that are made with graphene may have the potential to cause lung cancer. The other explanation is that the guidelines are either arbitrary, or difficult to follow. This applies to the social distancing guidelines as well as restrictions against mass gatherings. Recently, the CDC released their revised educational guidelines where they recommend social distancing of only three feet. At the same time, they still recommend six feet social distancing for all other gatherings. At this point, the sheer inconsistency makes the CDC appear as though they are pulling numbers and recommendations out of their ass. Moving on to restrictions on large gatherings, this was one of the more reasonable guidelines as part of the COVID restrictions. The only problem is when this guideline became…well, let’s just say, politically inconvenient as the summer’s protest-filled whirlwind went by. The fact that this was treated as “following the science” tells me that those spreading these claims have a false notion of what science actually is. Science is supposed to encompass the discovery of new knowledge based on highly scrutinized studies, not just blindly following whatever the “experts” are saying. While the Milgram experiment may show a general trend of obedience to authority, the COVID experiment goes even further to say that people will act righteous in their obedience to authority no matter their cruelty so long as their actions are framed as morally or scientifically correct. The fact that this behavior is not only widespread but also common in universities is a very pessimistic sign for the future, as well as the current state of universities.  Overall, it seems as though the purpose of the COVID restrictions is not to deal with the pandemic but rather to make an already incompetent generation feel like they have accomplished something.

At this point, you may be asking what should have been done. After all, these measures were unanimously agreed upon by public health officials. However, there was another approach to the pandemic which received little attention from mainstream media outlets. This approach is known as Focused Protection and is outlined in The Great Barrington Declaration. According to the document, the focus of COVID measures should be to protect those who are at the greatest risk of harm from the virus, such as the elderly and immunocompromised. The document also proposes multiple controls when dealing with interactions between those with a high COVID risk. Others considered to be low risk should be free to resume their lives as before the pandemic. As of now, the document has over 750,000 signatures worldwide, including over 50,000 signatures from both medical practitioners and public health scientists. While this was only written in October, the document presents a comprehensive plan which could have prevented months of harm in the following months before the vaccine was released. Given the failure of lockdowns and other current COVID measures to produce any significant results, it appears that the US would have been better off if it had followed the plan outlined within The Great Barrington Declaration.

All in all, the COVID pandemic was a public tragedy. However, much of the damage was caused not by the virus but in our response to it. If you would like to know more about the case against the COVID lockdowns, I would recommend checking out REASON magazine, The Foundation for Economic Education, and the podcast The Tom Woods Show, each of which have provided a myriad of details and evidence against the restrictions. If you have have been negatively affected by the incompetent response to the pandemic, I would remember this event in order to prevent future abuses of power.

Sources(include all of the article sources in the online version)

Here’s one chart but i think there are better charts out there which better show the point

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