Thomas Gallatin / Nov. 14, 2020

COVID Is Spiking, but Lockdowns Aren’t the Answer

Members of Joe Biden’s presumptive COVID-19 task force call for a national lockdown.

As many predicted, cooler weather has coincided with higher COVID-19 infections, with new record numbers of positive diagnoses being set nearly every day this week. And along with the spiking numbers have come new calls for shutdowns.

Leading the latest shutdown brigade were members of self-proclaimed President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force. In calling for another lockdown, Dr. Michael Osterholm asserted the economic impact could be minimized by paying “for a package right now to cover all the wages, lost wages for individual workers, for losses to small companies to medium-sized companies, for cities, states, county governments.” He insists, “We could do all of that. If we did that, then we could lock down for four to six weeks.”

From Osterholm’s perspective, ending the virus is the top priority, even if it means shuttering the economy. “There is no trade-off between health and the economy,” he declared. “Both require aggressively getting control of the virus. History will judge us harshly if we miss this life- and economy-saving opportunity to get this right this time.”

The problem with Osterholm’s “the government will solve everything” idealism is that it’s a recipe for socialism, which is precisely what hard-left members of the Democrat Party want. And there is no excuse for a return to such drastic measures given our increased knowledge of the virus, our more effectual treatments, and the recent development regarding a vaccine. Shuttering the economy is the last thing the country needs.

Regarding the vaccine, President Donald Trump over the weekend held a press conference announcing, “As soon as April, the vaccine will be available to the entire general population, with the exceptions of places like New York state where, for political reasons, the governor decided to say, and I don’t think it’s good politically, I think it’s very bad from a health point, but he wants to take his time on the vaccine. He doesn’t trust where the vaccine’s coming from. … We won’t be delivering it to New York until we have authorization to do so, and that pains me to say that.”

As National Review’s Wesley J. Smith argues, “Lock the country down again, and the partial recovery the economy has produced in the past few months will collapse, dashing the hopes and dreams of millions of Americans. Even if the government pays employees and business owners lost wages or profits, as Osterholm proposes, that won’t do more than put a thin bandage on the gaping wound a lockdown will tear into the fabric of society. And in the ‘cure,’ we will witness increased suicides, abuse, addiction, social isolation, and other assorted evils.”

Besides, one look at the failure of Europe’s lockdowns should be warning enough to avoid such a foolish path.

Furthermore, the Biden administration will likely get little support for such draconian policies from Republican state governors. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, for example, dismissed the efficacy of a national lockdown, saying, “I don’t think much of anything’s gonna change with respect to the virus. The fact is that we’re gonna try to work with whomever the president is, but we’re not gonna participate in a nation-wide lockdown. … The people of Mississippi can’t just go home, shut down their small businesses, shut down their restaurants, shut down their gyms, shut down other small businesses for six weeks and just think that you can come back in six weeks from now, flip a switch, and everything’s gonna be fine. That’s not the way the economy works.”

Meanwhile, the coronavirus promises to wreak havoc on the holiday season, as Americans faced with rising infection numbers will likely travel less to visit family. There will also be a signifiant impact to the economy due to fewer holiday shoppers and retail businesses being constrained by reduced capacity allowances for in-store customers.

In fact, Chicago Mayor Lori Lighfoot issued an advisory this week that all residents stay home and leave only “to go to work or school, or for essential needs.” Her order has essentially served to cancel family Thanksgiving celebrations.

The unfortunate reality is that COVID is not going away anytime soon. At the same time, it’s not something that should drive us to panic. As the old British expression states, keep calm and carry on.

(Updated.)

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