The Covid Lockdowns Hurt More Than They Help. We Need A New Plan

As if 2020 couldn’t get any crazier, street protests have flared up yet again. Only this time, they’re led by elderly people in wheelchairs.

By Brooke Conrad3 min read

A group of nursing home residents in Greeley, Colorado sat or stood outside their facility on October 8 to protest the pandemic restrictions that force them to stay isolated from their families. They haven’t hugged or kissed any family members for seven months.

“I’d rather die of COVID than loneliness,” read one of the signs. 

Extended social isolation is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to COVID lockdown failures. Over the course of the pandemic, suicides and drug overdoses increased, people died from restrictions on medical care, and still more may die from skipped cancer screenings. We’ve seen large increases in domestic violence, and millions of people remain unemployed.

Locking down may have cost more lives than remaining open would have.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe the initial COVID-19 lockdowns were well-intentioned. Nobody knew much about the virus at the time, and there were genuine concerns that hospitals would run out of room for COVID patients.

But we’ve learned a lot since those initial days. And more research is coming out that suggests locking down may have cost more lives than remaining open.

It’s time for the U.S. to reevaluate the past seven months and decide whether continuing to lock down our economy, schools, and general society is worth it in the long run. 

Drug Overdoses and Suicides Skyrocket

We don’t have many official statistics yet, but suspected overdose deaths increased by 42% nationwide in May, compared with overdose deaths from last year. In Washington, D.C., the month of April was the largest overdose month the city has seen in five years.

The CDC conducted a survey where 13.3% of participants said pandemic-related stress caused them to start or increase the use of alcohol or drugs.

Suicides are also a growing concern. In a shocking CDC report this past August, one in four adults aged 18-24 said they considered suicide during the pandemic. Another 31% said they experienced anxiety disorders or depression, a common factor in suicides.

The human condition is not to be socially isolated.

And it’s not just adults who suffer. A 12-year-old boy in Aledo, Texas committed suicide earlier this year as a result of being forced to stay away from his friends. “The human condition is not to be socially isolated,” the boy’s father, Brad Hunstable, said in a heartbreaking video. 

Other Lockdown Deaths Number in the Thousands

Social isolation increases the risk of death for the elderly and those with advanced diseases, doctors say. That probably explains why 27,000 more people died of Alzheimer’s and dementia this year compared with the past five-year average. 

Other deaths stem from limited access to medical care this year. This may be the reason why we’ve seen 16,000 excess deaths from hypertension and 10,000 from diabetes.

On top of that, fewer cancer screenings led to 46.4% fewer diagnoses for six common cancers. Those missed diagnoses could lead to an additional 10,000 deaths, the National Cancer Institute predicted.

Lockdowns Destroy Lives in Other Ways

Women are particularly at risk of suffering domestic violence, especially when pandemic restrictions force them to remain at home. One study out of Boston shows physical abuse reports doubled during the pandemic, compared with the previous three years put together. The injuries were also much more severe than in normal years.

Losing a job or a business can wreck a person’s life too. Between mid-March and the beginning of August, at least 1 million Americans filed for unemployment every single week. Half of those people are still unemployed, a third returned to their previous job, and 15% started a new job, per a Pew Research Center analysis

Between mid-March and early August, at least 1 million Americans filed for unemployment every single week.

Unemployment hit young adults particularly hard, the Pew analysis shows. Americans aged 18 to 29 are less likely to have returned to their previous jobs than those aged 30 to 64.

In addition, about 20% of small businesses that were open in January remain temporarily closed or have completely shut down.

Lockdowns Aren’t the Only Solution to COVID-19

On October 4, a group of scientists from Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford proposed an alternative to lockdowns. They call it “Focused Protection.”

Rather than slowing the spread of the virus, they want to open up the economy, schools, and social activities so that young, healthy people can build up herd immunity for the rest of their population. At the same time, the proposal would focus on increasing protections for the vulnerable.

“People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity,” the professors write.

This so-called “Great Barrington Declaration” has been signed by nearly 16,000 people who identify themselves as medical and public health scientists or medical practitioners. 

A herd immunity-based strategy possibly could have saved more lives than the lockdowns did.

The declaration is a common-sense, science-based solution that, at the very least, should be part of our national debate over how to deal with COVID-19. In fact, a new U.K. study just this week suggests that a herd immunity-based strategy could have saved more lives from COVID than the lockdowns did.

We need to keep in mind that COVID-19 is not deadly to most Americans. In fact, for young age groups, the death rate is possibly lower than the seasonal flu. Currently, the fatality rate for infected people of all age groups hovers around 0.65%. For young people, that number is drastically lower — around 0.02% for 20 to 49-year-olds. 

Closing Thoughts 

We’ve spent seven months latched onto a single narrative: that lockdowns work and are an effective long-term strategy. It’s time to remove the blinders and start looking at possible alternatives.