Leery On Lockdowns

Ask the DOC

We all remember watching Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio in the early days of the COVID epidemic when they proposed temporary lockdowns to “flatten the curve.” They claimed to be “following the science.” Well, here we are, more than a year later, and we still have partial lockdowns. So, did they really follow scientific recommendations and did the lockdowns prevent COVID deaths? Growing research tells us that the answer is no. The lockdowns destroyed a booming economy, forced many small businesses to close, and put many people out of work and into a financial nightmare. Locking healthy people in their homes to prevent the spread of disease is unprecedented and has set a dangerous precedent for freedom and human rights. As Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at Stanford and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economics Research, has put it, lockdowns were easily “the biggest public health mistake we’ve ever made.”

In November 2020, an international group of researchers released a study in the journal Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine. It was based on a sophisticated mathematical model, which found staying at home, on its own, did not have a major role in reducing COVID-19 disease transmission. Also, in early March, researchers from Brazil published a study in Scientific Reports. They compared COVID death rates not only between states in Brazil, but worldwide. They concluded that “only 1.6 percent of the death rate could be explained by staying home.” In other words, in about 98% of comparisons, there was “no evidence that the number of deaths per million is reduced by staying home.” There are real world examples of this. Ireland reopened its pubs, restaurants, and barbershops on June 29, 2020, and masks were not mandatory. After more than two months, there was no spike in death rates. In fact, the death rate kept falling. Also consider that Peru, which had the strictest lockdowns in the world, by last September had the highest number of deaths per million.

Many researchers now believe that stay-at-home orders represent a case of “exception fallacy,” also known as stereotype fallacy, in which conclusions are made about an entire group based upon data or observations from one individual. Last October, Dr. Bhattacharya, along with Sunetra Gupta, a professor at Oxford University, and Martin Kulldorff, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, wrote the Great Barrington Declaration, which called attention to the devastating short- and long-term health effects being caused by lockdown policies. It called for a return to normalcy for those at low risk. The lockdown harms they identified included: worse cardiovascular disease outcomes; deteriorating mental health; a rise in opioid and drug-related overdoses; increases in dementia-related deaths; catastrophic learning losses for students; and an increase in all-cause mortality among 25- to 44-year-olds.

Since last October, thousands of public health scientists, medical practitioners, and researchers have endorsed the Declaration. Many note that public health is more than infection control; it’s intended to look out for the health and well-being of the entire population. As one expert put it, “There is more than a thousand-fold difference in COVID-19 mortality between the oldest and the youngest. Children have lower mortality from COVID-19 than from annual influenza. For people under the age of 70, the infection survival rate is 99.95 percent.” So, for the non-vulnerable, who face far greater harm from lockdown than from COVID-19 infection risk, the lockdowns should be lifted, and normality resumed. People should be allowed to make their own life choices.

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By Peter Galvin, MD

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