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June 9, 2020

Was the Shutdown Worth It?

A new German report has folks questioning the prevailing wisdom in our own country.

A leaked report out of Germany is causing all sorts of problems for its government and media because it portrays the handling of the coronavirus shutdown as a failure. The 93-page report, “Analysis of the Crisis Management,” was written by a team of scientists from several German universities appointed by the Interior Ministry.

The scientists take the German government to task on several points. Among them:

  • The danger posed by COVID-19 was overestimated and did not cross a threshold that went beyond normal levels for a new virus.

  • People who died from COVID-19 were statistically more likely to die this year anyway due to poor health and ancillary conditions.

  • The (now 400,000) deaths worldwide due to COVID-19 is eclipsed by the 1.5 million deaths caused by influenza in 2017-18.

  • The COVID-focused German healthcare system has postponed life-saving surgeries and treatments, making the overall health picture in the country worse, not better.

The embarrassed German government and its friends in the media there have closed ranks to minimize the damage done by the report. The first move in its damage-control strategy was to shoot the messenger, figuratively speaking. Stephen Kohn, who is identified with leaking the report to the press, has been suspended from duty and is currently having his name dragged through the mud by willing members of the media. Isn’t it telling how we’re seeing more instances of journalists in Western societies gleefully operating as the lapdogs of government?

The report is out there, though, and while German politicians remain committed to burying it and moving beyond the issue, citizens have grown irate about the news, taking to the streets to voice their concerns. This is part of a larger international backlash against governments’ imposition of national quarantines and economic shutdowns to contain the virus.

The accusation that the total shutdown was an overreaction, or even a government power grab, is one that the federal and state governments are facing here in the United States. Around the country, states have begun shedding draconian virus restrictions, allowing people to move about more freely and businesses to open. Responses to the reopening have been predictable on a scientific and political level.

Georgia and Florida, among the first states to ease their quarantine rules, have seen an uptick in the number of confirmed positive cases but a drop in the number of hospitalizations. In both Republican-run states, there are plenty more available hospitals beds than virus patients. Texas has experienced a bigger jump in confirmed cases, but its medical system is currently equipped to handle the case load.

All but seven states have rolled back or completely abandoned their quarantine lockdowns. Leftist politicians, who would prefer the lockdown to run indefinitely or at least until President Donald Trump is out of office, have attacked decisions to ease restrictions. The New York Times did its part by producing a hit piece that claimed Georgia’s rollback was equal to a racial attack on the minorities who ostensibly would be hardest hit. As one might imagine, no such racial genocide has materialized in Georgia, or elsewhere for that matter.

The rise in confirmed cases post-lockdown was widely predicted and expected as people began emerging from their homes and congregating in public again. The surge, however, also comes in the wake of broader testing to identify cases, so it’s difficult to determine just how much of a rebound the virus is having.

Two separate reports released by the journal Nature and by the Imperial College London put forth the idea that the shutdown prevented an additional 60 million infections in the U.S. and elsewhere. Scientists did find that school closures did not have an appreciable impact on preventing the spread of the virus, but claimed that further study was needed.

The timing of these additional reports that essentially praise the quarantine efforts of the federal and state governments is a bit suspect, as much of the data reached in the reports is still in play. There may be a time when we can accurately determine whether the lockdown and the price we paid for it was worth it, but it’s too early to tell that now. Leftists are mainly looking for any vindication in their efforts to close down the country, and maybe even an excuse to go back to that at some point.

The question that will be on many minds, and already posed here, is this: What do we do if there are no significant spikes in COVID-19 cases after opening the states? How should we interpret that information? Were we overly cautious? Was it a government power grab in disguise? Is government capable of handling a major national emergency? Only time will tell.

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