March 15, 2021 Reading Time: 4 minutes

President Biden made a statement last week that Americans might be able to gather in small groups by July 4, to celebrate Independence Day. One wonders who is protecting him from the reality: most of the country is almost entirely back to normal. 

Outside of California and some Northeast states, the lockdowns have largely ended, with ever more states repealing restrictions and mandates. Reimposing them for any reason seems almost unthinkable at this point. Anthony Fauci’s constant prattle about the dangers of opening up is falling on deaf ears. 

The few states that are still locked down are rapidly losing residents and businesses. States that are entirely open are gaining them. As for the travel against which the CDC warns, the nation’s airports and highways are back to pre-lockdown levels of normal. The slogan “land of the free” is starting to mean something again. 

Even the New York Times, which has led the lockdown effort for longer than a year, is starting to backpedal, finally. An article called “I Would Much Rather Be in Florida” points out:

[M]uch of the state has a boomtown feel, a sense of making up for months of lost time.

Realtors cold-knock on doors looking to recruit sellers to the sizzling housing market, in part because New Yorkers and Californians keep moving in. The unemployment rate is 5.1 percent, compared to 9.3 percent in California, 8.7 percent in New York and 6.9 percent in Texas. That debate about opening schools? It came and went months ago. Children have been in classrooms since the fall….

Florida’s death rate is no worse than the national average, and better than that of some other states that imposed more restrictions, despite its large numbers of retirees, young partyers and tourists. Caseloads and hospitalizations across most of the state are down….

Try to buy a home and the experience is frustrating for a different reason: an open house will have 30 cars parked outside. Though Florida’s population growth has slowed during the pandemic, documentary stamps, an excise tax on real estate sales, were 15 percent higher in January than they were a year ago. Filing fees for new corporations were 14 percent higher.

Also notable is that the heavily curated comment section of the article is packed with people saying that we never should have locked down – a point of view practically banned for the better part of a year. 

Meanwhile, the “science” behind accepted postulates such as the 6-feet-of-distance rule are unraveling by the day. A study from Massachusetts found essentially no differences in rates of infection in students whether they are standing 6 feet or 3 feet apart. This prompted even Fauci to walk back his long-standing demand that students be 6 feet apart – just the latest of many flip flops. The study didn’t examine what would happen if everyone just behaved normally, as they do in Florida. In fact, one of the missing pieces of research for a whole year would have compared a normal-behaving maskless community with one that complied with all the extreme lockdown strictures. The closest we have to this are all the very many studies showing no correlation at all between lockdowns and disease control. 

Remember that the whole notion of managing people’s lives to control a virus stemmed from untested models. That people should be compelled to stand apart is related to what Edward Stringham calls “Sim City Thinking” – the belief that society can be operated the way people play with computer games. It might have been wiser to have looked more critically at those models before adopting them the whole world over in the midst of a disease panic. 

It’s a huge relief, to be sure, but it comes far too late, not only in the US but all around the world. The terrible damage of the lockdowns has become palpably obvious. UNICEF reports:

  • As of March 2021, 13 percent of 71 million COVID-19 infections in 107 countries (62 per cent of the total global infections) with data by age are among children and adolescents under 20 years of age.
  • In developing countries, child poverty is expected to increase by around 15 per cent. An additional 140 million children in these countries are also already projected to be in households living below the poverty line.
  • Schools for more than 168 million schoolchildren globally have been closed for almost a year. Two-thirds of countries with full or partial closures are in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • At least 1 in 3 schoolchildren has been unable to access remote learning while their schools were closed.
  • Around 10 million additional child marriages may occur before the end of the decade, threatening years of progress in reducing the practice.
  • At least 1 in 7 children and young people has lived under stay-at-home policies for most of the last year, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation.
  • As of November 2020, an additional 6 to 7 million children under age 5 may have suffered from wasting or acute malnutrition in 2020, resulting in almost 54 million wasted children, a 14 per cent rise that could translate into more than 10,000 additional child deaths per month – mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. With a 40 per cent decline in nutrition services for children and women, many other nutrition outcomes can worsen.
  • As of November 2020, more than 94 million people were at risk of missing vaccines due to paused measles campaigns in 26 countries.

The toll on civil liberties at home and around the world is extremely grim, and especially disturbing when you consider that all of this was preventable. As Florida governor Ron DeSantis says now with some frequency, lockdowns do not work and they cause immense harm. More opinion pages are admitting, as the Las Vegas Review Journal has said: “Virus lockdowns don’t appear to have worked as advertised.”

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the New York Times editorial page to admit that. Perhaps someday but it won’t come soon. The lockdowners committed themselves to something previously unthinkable. To admit error at this point is too intellectually and psychologically upsetting. Regardless, we can be confident that as the years roll on, there will be a growing consensus that, as Jay Bhattacharya has said, lockdowns are the worst policy error of our lifetimes and many generations. 

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker served as Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research from 2017 to 2021.

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