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COVID-19 has given rise to a new state-run religion: mandatory social distancing. The architects of this new religion are infectious disease experts, most notably, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more commonly known as the CDC. The CDC failed to prevent and control COVID-19, and thus, is largely responsible for the single greatest government failure of all time.

The CDC’s response to its own failure has been to develop “guidelines.” Although these guidelines are not technically regulations, they have been treated by most public institutions and private organizations as mandates. As a result, almost all organizations are complying with them. Those who do not comply are likely to be subject to lawsuits and public shaming on the part of the media and social distancing snitches. 

The CDC guidelines constitute a series of “non-pharmaceutical interventions” that autocratic, virtue-signaling politicians have eagerly exploited to implement extreme forms of social distancing. In particular, two unprecedented and massively destructive physical distancing policies were implemented: (1) quarantining an entire population (i.e., “stay-at-home” orders), and (2) shutting down entire industries and significantly altering the operations of other industries that were “permitted” to continue to operate. This includes educational establishments, such as day care facilities, primary and secondary schools, and religious institutions, which provide important educational and recreational services for children.

The end result is that thanks to the CDC, our children have been out of school since March, so that they can serve as unwitting subjects in a grand, unethical social experiment. This experiment was designed by those responsible for the government failure: infectious disease experts. We consider the experiment to be unethical because there has been no informed consent, either from parents, children, or even our legislative representatives. The bottom line is that our children’s future and the quality of their lives have been sacrificed to conduct this experiment.

School closures, stay-at-home orders, and shutdowns have been especially hard for two types of children: (1) those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, who often live in cramped conditions in blighted neighborhoods and are victims of the “digital divide,” and (2) autistic children and other special needs kids. For many poor kids, schools, public libraries, and public park facilities constitute a welcome refuge from the turmoil, chaos, and potential abuse that may experience at home. Stay-at-home orders for such children severely limit their much-needed access to these facilities, as well as social services, counselling, and extracurricular activities. It also makes them much more vulnerable to recruitment by gangs and organized crime, since summer job opportunities are now extremely limited. 

Autistic and other special needs children have been especially hurt by the lockdowns. For example, social interaction is a key aspect of treatment of autistic children and placing such kids under virtual house arrest has several deleterious effects. Routines are often important to autistic children. Accordingly, they despise uncertainty and restrictions on their activities. Any disruption in their routines can lead to belligerent and boisterous behavior. The bottom line is that kids with autism require highly trained, special education teachers and one-on-one attention, both of which cannot be provided effectively on virtual platforms like Zoom. As is the case for others who suffer from non-COVID-19 ailments, access to treatment for autistic and other special needs children has been severely curtailed.

Of course, there was never any need to “lock down” any of our children for any period of time. It is well known that children are at extremely low risk of contracting the disease and even when they do, they have the highest recovery rate of all. CDC data reveal that school-age children are more likely to be struck by lightning than to perish from the virus.

While it is true that children could potentially infect their teachers, teachers are also generally young and at very little risk from the disease. The median age of public-school teachers in the U.S. is 41. Regularly testing teachers and students for the presence of COVID-19, and periodic self-isolation when found to be infected, is a far less costly strategy than following extreme CDC guidelines. For example, testing and isolation have been successfully applied in Israel, where schools reopened in early May.

Despite their miserable failure, the CDC and other infectious disease experts have become our new bureaucratic masters. It appears that all industries in all states must have the approval of the CDC to operate under a “new normal.” Their “guidelines,” which have once again been interpreted by most private and public organizations as mandates, are a form of pseudo-science. For example, the “six feet” rule has become an article of faith in the new state-run religion, but other countries have implemented a three feet rule as recommended by the World Health Organization. Still others have adopted a half-way approach between three and six feet. This lack of consistency underscores the pseudo-science basis upon which any set of “guidelines” rest.

Other CDC “recommendations” for reopened schools include preventing students from sitting together on school buses, closure of cafeterias and playgrounds, mask wearing, and school dividers and partitions. Some schools are also planning on preventing students from talking to each other at lunch. In sum, the term “state-sponsored, child abuse” would sadly seem to be appropriate.

We must also not forget the abuse that these perilous and ill-conceived guidelines end up inflicting on parents, especially women who are already challenged, in terms of balancing their careers with child rearing. With children at home, parents have faced the added burden of homeschooling, or simply the task of entertaining bored or stressed children. One might think that the problem is only really present for single mothers. However, even when both parents are at home, the burden falls unequally on mothers. Recent surveys have shown that during lockdown, women continue to devote more hours of the day to childcare than do their male partners.

In closing, we are not attempting to demonize the individuals who work at the CDC. However, their guidelines and the “new normal” that those guidelines represent will ensure that abuse of our children will continue, since they will be denied the full array of services for which their parents and other taxpayers pay. More importantly, it will deny kids the chance to develop socially and emotionally as a result of normal human contact through sports, informal play, and the socialization that normally occurs at school, on the school bus, or on the playground. Shockingly, it now appears that suicide rates among the young are on the increase, which is concerning since suicide is the leading cause of death for those under the age of 25. 

For these reasons, we call on parents to reject CDC guidelines and the “new normal” at schools. We should no longer allow our children to be unwitting subjects in this deviant and unethical grand social experiment. CDC-enabled child abuse and its ongoing destruction of normal childhood development must end now.

Robert M. Sauer

Robert M. Sauer

Robert Sauer is Professor of Economics at the University of London, Royal Holloway College, and Editor-in-Chief of the European Economic Review, the European Economic Review Plus and the Journal of Economics, Management and Religion. Robert’s research focuses on labour force dynamics, volunteerism and entrepreneurship. He has published papers in Econometrica, the Journal of Political Economy, the Review of Economic Studies, the International Economic Review and the Journal of Labor Economics.

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Donald Siegel

Donald Siegel

Dr. Donald Siegel is Foundation Professor of Public Policy and Management and Director of the School of Public Affairs (SPA) at Arizona State University. He received his bachelor’s degree in economics and his master’s and doctoral degrees in business economics from Columbia University. He then served as a Sloan Foundation post-doctoral fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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David Waldman

David Waldman

David A. Waldman is a professor of management in the W. P. Carey School of Business. His research interests focus largely on leadership processes, especially at the upper levels of organizations and in a global context. Professor Waldman is a fellow of the Academy of Management, American Psychological Association, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. He makes presentations and consults worldwide on the topics of organizational neuroscience, responsible and visionary leadership, and navigating the paradoxes associated with effective leadership.

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