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Are Prolonged Shutdowns Deadlier Than the Virus?

Are Prolonged Shutdowns Deadlier Than the Virus?

Coronavirus lockdown/quarantine. Amusement parks, playground, beaches, and public gardens have been closed to the public during Covid-19. (Irinayeryomina/Dreamstime)


By Friday, 19 June 2020 01:54 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The COVID-19 pandemic caught the entire immune-defenseless world off guard.

No one knew what the "novel" virus was; how it spread; how lethal it was, and for which population segments; how to cure infected victims; or how to "lower the curve" (slow its spread) to avoid overwhelming medical response resources.

Medical authorities and government policy leaders were forced to make terribly difficult responsive judgement calls with very incomplete, often competing and conflicting, information.

Debates have raged regarding when, and how, to relieve variously mandated living and business restrictions in ways that balance intrinsically co-dependent public safety and economic health priorities according to unfolding empirical lessons-learned.

Although moving too fast to restore as much normalcy as possible might increase viral casualties, delaying too long will inevitably cause more people to die from postponed medical exams and surgeries, domestic violence and child abuse, and isolation and depression-related suicides.

Some private and public health researchers and practitioners believe that it’s time now to recalibrate to relieve school, business, and home closure restrictions in light of new data.

They argue that reopening America will reduce — not increase — medical, as well as economic, casualties.

More than 600 doctors signed a May 20 letter sent to President Trump urging him to end the "national shutdown." They referred to widespread state orders keeping businesses closed and kids home from school as a "mass casualty incident" with "exponentially growing health consequences."

The petition outlined a variety of serious, often deadly shutdown consequences, including patients missing routine checkups that could detect things like heart problems or cancer, increases in substance and alcohol abuse, and increases in financial instability that could lead to "[p]overty and financial uncertainty," which "is closely linked to poor health."

The letter, issued by a new organization called A Doctor a Day headed by Dr. Simone Gold who works at a Los Angeles area hospital, also said, "We are alarmed at what appears to be the lack of consideration for the future health of our patients. The downstream health effects . . . are being massively under-estimated and under-reported. This is an order of magnitude error."

When Fox News reporter Tyler Olson asked Dr. Mark McDonald, a psychiatrist, and three other doctors who were involved with the letter whether they thought the indirect effects of the shutdowns outweighed the likely consequences of lifting them, all four said they believed they do.

McDonald responded, "The very initial argument . . . which sounded reasonable three months ago, is that in order to limit the overwhelmed patient flux into hospitals that would prevent adequate care, we needed to spread out the infections and thus the deaths in specific locales that could become hotspots, particularly New York City . . . it was a valid argument at the beginning based on the models that were given."

Dr. McDonald then added that as it turned out, "What we’ve seen now over the last three months is that no city — none, zero — outside New York has been significantly stressed."

Silicon Valley technologist Aaron Ginn, as cited in The Wall Street Journal, who has become an influential critic of school, business, and home lockdown orders agrees with Doctor a Day assertions that government public health officials have focused too much on "flattening the curve . . . while ignoring the economic shock to our system."

Ginn is joined by a small battalion of prominently-credentialed supporters who agree that national lockdowns have been too sweeping. Included are Stanford Nobel laureate in chemistry Michael Levitt, Stanford professors of medicine John Ioannidis and Jay Bhattacharya, and University of Southern California professors of pharmacy and health economics, Joel Hay and Neeraj Sood.

On the one hand, Ginn says, are ideologues who are heavily invested in the idea of lockdown, regardless of the cost. On the other, are scientists with data showing that the lockdowns are overkill.

David Henderson, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and Jonathan Lipow, a professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., writing in The Wall Street Journal, have concluded that "twice as many lives could be saved if government focused limited resources on protecting the most vulnerable people rather than squandering them on those who seem to face almost no risk, such as children."

National Affairs editor at the American Enterprise Institute, Yuval Levin, has noted that as the pandemic shows, there are no purely technical solutions for problems that demand political leadership. Writing in a May 16-17 Wall Street Journal feature, Levin observed: "When technical experts advise government officials, they aren’t just conveying neutral facts, but neither are they just playing politics. They offer informed judgement."

Levin then prudently warns, "That’s what makes them useful — and also what limits their value."

Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. Larry has written more than 600 articles for Newsmax and Forbes and is the author of several books. Included are: "Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure and Our Future" (2020), "The Weaponization of AI and the Internet: How Global Networks of Infotech Overlords are Expanding Their Control Over Our Lives" (2019), "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful" (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2011). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.

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Debates have raged regarding when, and how, to relieve variously mandated living and business restrictions in ways that balance intrinsically co-dependent public safety and economic health priorities according to unfolding empirical lessons-learned.
Friday, 19 June 2020 01:54 PM
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