The response to COVID-19 has been like Godzilla attacking Japan – people panicking and scrambling about willy-nilly. The government, using all its power and ego, decided the best way to protect the people is to put them into solitary confinement. What was supposed to only be 15 days to “flatten the curve” has turned into more than a year of pandemic lockdowns and mask mandates. The economy has taken a severe hit and businesses have closed their doors for good. Have these stay-at-home measures caused more harm than good? According to several studies, this is definitely the case.
Researchers from the Rand Corporation and the University of Southern California analyzed the medical value of lockdowns. They observed 43 countries and all U.S. states, publishing the findings in June as a working paper of the National Bureau for Economic Research titled “The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Policy Responses on Excess Mortality.” Notably, the study authors said:
“We fail to find that SIP [sheltering in place] policies saved lives. To the contrary, we find a positive association between SIP policies and excess deaths. We find that following the implementation of SIP policies, excess mortality increases.”
In fact, researchers predicted almost from the beginning that social and economic turmoil would end up leading to tens of thousands of “deaths of despair” caused by such troubles as alcoholism, drug overdoses, and suicides. As lockdowns continued, unemployment skyrocketed, and mental health and substance abuse programs were interrupted. People desperately needing help were not able to get it.
The City Journal reported, “The number of people killed last year in motor-vehicle accidents in the United States rose to the highest level in more than a decade, even though Americans did significantly less driving than in 2019.” And, “it was the steepest annual increase in the fatality rate per mile traveled in nearly a century, apparently due to more substance abuse and more high-speed driving on empty roads.”
Seniors are especially vulnerable. Besides the efforts of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tossing COVID-infected patients into nursing homes, the locking down of these establishments seemed to have caused more harm than good, especially for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. According to an article from September 2020 published in a prominent Washington newspaper, “more than 134,200 people have died from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia since March. That is 13,200 more U.S. deaths caused by dementia than expected, compared with previous years.”
To put that into perspective, diabetes and heart disease are two of the biggest sources of excess deaths, but dementia has produced more deaths than those two combined. Depression is a big cause. Humans are social creatures and part of the treatment for Alzheimer’s is routine contact with family and friends. Visitors also aid in helping to feed and bathe their loved ones, but these duties fell to staff who were already heavily burdened due to the lockdowns, so a lot of the patients were not getting the regular treatments and attention they so needed.
Sharon O’Connor runs a program at Iona Senior Services in Washington D.C. She said, “We have clients who have lost 30 pounds. Some just don’t have a reason to get up anymore, so they stay in bed all day. Others sit by themselves in a dark room.”
What About the Children?
A team of researchers from Johns Hopkins and Duke analyzed the effects of past recessions on mortality. The paper, “The Long-Term Impact of the COVID-19 Unemployment Shock on Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates” estimates the U.S. will experience more than 1 million excess deaths over the next two decades due to the massive “unemployment shock” last year.
In another study, focused on the impact of the pandemic on education, researchers noted how educational levels affect not only income ability but also life expectancy. According to the City Journal. the work suggests that the “learning loss” from school closures will cost this generation of students “more years of life than have been lost by all the victims of the coronavirus.” The report states:
“These findings suggest that the decision to close US public primary schools in the early months of 2020 may be associated with a decrease in life expectancy for US children.”
Have the Lockdowns Worked?
The City Journal reported, “When the 50 states are ranked according to the stringency of their lockdown restrictions, you can see one obvious pattern: the more restrictive the state, the higher the unemployment rate. But there’s no pattern in the rate of Covid-19 mortality.”
Hundreds of thousands of excess deaths have occurred since the country was put into isolation. And the toll will only continue to increase. How many preventative doctor’s appointments were missed that could have caught early signs of cancer or heart disease? Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor at Stanford Medical School calls the lockdowns a “trickle-down epidemiology.” He said:
“Lockdowns are the single worst public health mistake in the last 100 years. We will be counting the catastrophic health and psychological harms, imposed on nearly every poor person on the face of the earth, for a generation.”
Read more from Kelli Ballard.