This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Lockdowns Destructive and Unnecessary
“When you isolate everyone, including all the healthy people, you’re prolonging the problem because you’re preventing population immunity,” said Dr. Scott Atlas of Stanford’s Hoover Institution. Since joining President Donald Trump’s pandemic team in August, Dr. Atlas has advocated for a system similar to herd immunity on the Swedish model, arguing that increased positive cases moves the country closer to immunity, rather than toward a higher death rate.
Herd immunity is in keeping with Trump’s plan to shelter high-risk individuals, while allowing the rest of the population to get back to work. Dr. Atlas also believes that protecting those over 65 and with comorbidities, such as chronic respiratory illnesses, should not prevent schools from reopening for in-person classes. “When younger, healthier people get it, they don’t have a problem with the disease,” he explained.
President Trump’s original plan was to use the herd immunity strategy until he gave-in to Dr. Anthony Fauci’s advice to implement a lockdown. Later, in opposition to Fauci, Trump began advising states to open up their economies. The authority to do so, however, rests with state governors, and – in some cases – city mayors, who have ignored the President’s advice. The President has also attributed increased positive cases to increased testing, rather than to a continued spread of the disease. Consistent with the President’s statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its testing guidance, saying that asymptomatic cases do not necessarily need testing.
Dr. Atlas argues that large population centers, such as the New York metro area, have already reached herd immunity. The data seems to confirm Dr. Atlas’s belief. Long Island, for example, with a population of about 3 million, had less than 200 deaths between June 1 and September 3. Additionally, 80% of deaths were age 65 and over, while 90% had significant comorbidities. Across the entire country, less than 15,000 coronavirus patients are currently in ICU. It seems the disease is running to the end of its natural course.
Lockdowns Cost Lives
In addition to causing people to lose their income, the lockdowns have caused numerous health problems, because people are forgoing healthcare and hospitals were unable or unwilling to treat them. There has also been an increase in chronic conditions, such as obesity, hypertension, and lung disease, as a result of inactivity. This puts these adults at greater risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, which can also be risk factors for Covid-19. In a mental health survey, 53% of respondents said that their mental health was negatively affected by the lockdown. They also reported increased alcohol and drug consumption, as well as a worsening of chronic conditions.
An article co-authored by Dr. Atlas in late May cited well-established economic data which established that each $10 million to $24 million loss of GDP results in one death. People die for a variety of reasons. These can be “deaths of despair,” due to drugs and alcohol, or other causes. Economists call these losses “loss of life and life years,” whereby a 24-year-old who dies loses more life-years than a 90-year-old who dies.
Additional deaths were caused by delayed medical treatments. Nearly half of the nation’s chemotherapy patients, for example, did not receive their treatment. Forty-percent of people who experienced an acute stroke and roughly the same percentage of people who experienced heart attacks did not call an ambulance out of fears of infection. Dr. Atlas also points at the fact that 50% of children did not get scheduled vaccinations, which he says is setting up the country for a health crisis in the future.
The US economy lost trillions of dollars and this will result in the loss of millions of life years. It has been determined that coronavirus has resulted in 800,000 lost years of life. By contrast, totalling all of the combined lost years of life through unemployment and considering only about half a dozen major healthcare issues, the lockdown has cost 700,000 life years per month, which, for the first five months already far surpasses the number of years of life years lost due to the virus. Meanwhile, direct deaths from coronavirus are dropping-off significantly, while the lockdowns continue.
Dr. Atlas has said that masks may not make any sense for the general public. Jane M. Orient, M.D. wrote in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, “There is scant evidence for the effectiveness of masks, lockdowns, and ‘social distancing’ although there is devastating harm.” She was referring to the numerous health problems caused by masks and lockdowns as well as the inability of many patients to receive their regularly scheduled treatment for chronic illnesses.
Less Contagious Than Thought
In late August, the CDC released data which demonstrated that the vast majority of covid-19 deaths had multiple comorbidities which could also be the cause of death. This data has been interpreted to mean that just over 9,000 of the deaths attributed to coronavirus were from coronavirus alone. Critics of this claim have pointed out that cancer patients or AIDS patients often die of other diseases, due to their diminished immune system, but are still counted as cancer or AIDS deaths. Therefore, while the true number may be higher than 9,000, it is dramatically lower than the 192,000 deaths attributed to coronavirus.
In addition to the disease not being as deadly as once thought, Dr. Atlas and other researchers have said that asymptomatic cases may not be contagious. If this is correct, and asymptomatic cases cannot pass the disease to others, this means that, roughly 90% of positive cases are not contagious. This data combined suggests that coronavirus has an extremely low mortality rate, particularly among young, healthy people, and the vast majority of people who test positive will not become ill, and can’t pass the virus to others.
The Case to End the Lockdown
Voices against the lockdown are growing. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that his state will never do another lockdown. He cited Peru, which had a strict, military-enforced lockdown and yet had one of the highest per capita coronavirus fatality rates in the world. Missouri Governor Mike Parson said he would open schools because children are “at the lowest risk possible and if they do get Covid-19 — which they will…when they go to school — they’re not going to the hospitals…They’re going to go home, and they’re gonna get over it.”
Dr. Orient supports the reopening of schools. She is also in favor of treating covid-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a drug which has been used in the U.S. for decades for the treatment of autoimmune disease. This puts her at odds with popular media opinions. She is anti-lockdown, anti-mask, and pro-HCQ. In her own words, “The pretext of ‘science’ and ‘evidence-based medicine’ is masking authoritarianism that disregards, discredits, and attempts to cancel methods that could save thousands of lives threatened not just by Covid-19, but by many other diseases.”
Dr. Atlas is also in favor of opening schools because it is known that children are not particularly at risk of the disease and, so far, it is uncertain if they even can carry the disease. Nineteen states have reported zero child deaths from Covid-19. In states with child deaths, less than .7% of children who tested positive died of covid-19. Additionally, obesity was found to be one of the most common comorbidities associated with child covid-19 deaths. As for concerns that teachers could catch covid-19 from students, the bulk of K-12 teachers are aged 41 and lower. Therefore, most are not in the high-risk category. The teachers who are older or in an at-risk group could be protected by teaching from home.
In addition to children’s low risk of severe illness or death, Dr. Atlas points at the loss of academic learning associated with school closures. “It is a fallacy to think that online education in K-12 education is even remotely like the quality of education kids get.” There has been a 30% loss of reading skills in young children, and 50% of children in some school districts have not been logging in during scheduled class times.
The children are also missing out on physical activity and social interaction, which is part of the maturity and growth experience of attending school, in-person. Severe child abuse cases, those resulting in emergency room visits, have increased 35%. For child abuse cases resulting in cuts and bruises, but not an emergency room visit, school is the number one place abuse is discovered. Consequently, only the absolute worst cases of abuse are being detected, while experts know that total cases of abuse have increased. Millions of children from low-income families are dependent on school meals for their nutrition. The health of these children is now suffering due to school closures. To make matters worse, one in five of the children dependent on school meals does not have a computer at home. Therefore, these children are missing out on meals, health, and learning.