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Lewis Morris / Jun. 16, 2020

Who Was Most Susceptible to COVID-19?

It's becoming clearer that lockdowns for everyone may have been overwrought.

As U.S. states emerge from the China Virus-imposed quarantine and more reliable data of the virus’s impact on the country becomes clear, people are beginning to wonder if all the misery caused by the lockdown was worth the effort.

Reliable data from various studies demonstrates that the vast majority of the most serious COVID-19 cases in the United States were among the elderly and those with preexisting conditions. A review by Stanford medical professor John Ioannidis found that around 80% of Americans who died of COVID-19 were older than 65. Additional data from the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity found that Americans over 85 are 2.75 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those 75 to 84 and 16.8 times more like than those 55 to 64. As treatments have improved, the mortality rate in general has dropped, with those under 45 making up less than 2% of total deaths.

This is information we have suspected all along, but now we have more extensive data. And the facts prompt the big question: Was the lockdown necessary? Might it have been more effective to focus on protecting our at-risk population while letting the rest of the nation go about its business?

It’s hard not to suspect that the lockdown was a put-on manipulated by power-mad politicians and the media. Democrat governors like Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and New York’s Andrew Cuomo threatened their citizens and issued unconstitutional mandates. Democrats called for an indefinite lockdown, presumably through the presidential election, in hopes of using the crisis to their political advantage. They only looked the other way on lockdown restrictions when the Black Lives Matter rioting started, hoping the chaos would give them a political advantage. (In fact, New York contact tracers won’t ask people if they attended protests.) But now that President Donald Trump has decided the danger has abated enough to start holding his record-breaking rallies again, Democrats want to reinstitute lockdowns for fear Trump might gain a political advantage. Sensing an ulterior motive here?

There is unlikely to be consensus on whether governments did the right thing by going into full lockdown. There is evidence to suggest that extreme social distancing did slow the spread of the virus. But was that the real reason for our beating the grim death projections of the World Health Organization and Imperial College of London professor Neil Ferguson? If so, how do you explain Sweden?

Sweden was the outlier among nations during the China Virus pandemic because the country did not go into total lockdown. It isolated its sickest citizens, then allowed everyone else to pretty much go about their business. Children went to school and many businesses remained open. Sweden’s death toll per capita is higher than the U.S., but its total number of new cases is much lower. Some European countries, including Sweden’s closest neighbors, have seen fewer deaths, though others had a more devastating impact.

Partly as a result of its unique response to the virus, Sweden’s economy actually grew at an annual rate of 0.4% in the first quarter. This is relatively good news compared to other countries, particularly the U.S., which saw all of the economic gains made since Donald Trump became president vanish in a matter of weeks.

Doctors and Democrats warn that another lockdown may be in store in the fall if the expected spike in new cases continues to climb. Good luck shoving Americans back into their homes, particularly now that we know who among us needs to be protected. Politicians will have a hard time arguing that everyone should stay indoors, not work, and not go to school when only a portion of the population is at high risk for the virus. COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon, but hopefully our overwrought early response has seen its end.

(Visit our comprehensive CV19 Pandemic response and recovery page to review our timeline of government and political actions related to the pandemic, and see our related pages.

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