A week ago, there was a rather startling statistic that made headlines regarding the effectiveness of COVID lockdowns. One of the things that made this statistic more credible than some was that it came from a study by Johns Hopkins University. What they found is that lockdowns reduced COVID deaths by a mere 0.2%. Here is a notable quote from the study: “We find no evidence that lockdowns, school closures, border closures, and limiting gatherings have had a noticeable effect on COVID-19 mortality.” Perhaps it’s easier to grasp this figure if we calculate the absolute number of people who were saved from death by COVID in the United States by the lockdowns as of 2/2/22; that number is 1833. By comparison, the number for Canada is only 70. You can calculate the number for your own country if you know the number of COVID deaths on Feb. 2.
Let me be clear, first of all, by affirming that every life is precious. Psalm 139:13 affirms this: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Thus, every one of those 1833 Americans who would probably have died from COVID if not for lockdowns was created by the Lord and still has the chance to turn to Him in saving faith if they have not already. At the same time, while acknowledging the nearly 5.8 million deaths worldwide (936,000 in the U.S.) caused by COVID so far, it is certainly not the only cause of death. For example, you may have heard about a sharp increase in drug-related deaths; from April of 2020 to April of 2021, the number of U.S. deaths from drug overdose jumped by 28.5%, an increase of 22,000+, topping 100,000 for the first time. More specifically, opioid deaths jumped by 34.5%, an increase of 19,000+. I mention drug-overdose deaths because others have often mentioned them over the past year or so in connection with lockdowns; in other words, drug use and death from overdose increased dramatically during the lockdowns. I have not been able to find cancer death statistics for 2020 and 2021 yet, but anecdotally, there were reports of people putting off cancer-related doctor appointments during the lockdowns; I have no doubt that the same was true for other diseases and ailments as well.
I thought it would be interesting to compare COVID deaths by state, with a particular focus on Florida and New York. The reason is that last year, there was considerable pressure on Florida governor Ron DeSantis from the Biden administration to adhere to its various mandates related to lockdowns, vaccines, and masks. New York, by contrast, has adhered very closely to those mandates. Florida’s lockdown in 2020 lasted two months; by comparison, New York’s lockdown lasted thirteen months. So, where does Florida rank in terms of COVID deaths? As of 2/2/22, they were tied for 21st in terms of overall death rates; however, adjusting for age, they were 31st. New York ranked 3rd for overall COVID death rate and 7th for age-adjusted death rate. In other words, New York ranked considerably worse than Florida even though New York’s lockdown was eleven months longer. (Mississippi has the dubious distinction of being #1 in COVID deaths, regardless of which metric you use. You may be aware that Mississippi also has the highest rate of obesity, which is a key comorbidity factor.)
Because of the “devastating effects” of the COVID lockdowns, the authors of the Johns Hopkins study recommended that they be “rejected out of hand as a pandemic policy instrument.” In other words, the next time there is a pandemic, don’t implement lockdowns! Jennifer Grant, an infectious diseases physician at the University of British Columbia, said this in response to the Johns Hopkins study: “It made little sense to prevent young people from living normally because they are at very low risk of getting very sick, but have been very, very heavily hit by the impacts of lockdown.” I agree 100%. When I was teaching in March and April of 2020, which was very early in the pandemic, even my ESL students could see (from a graph I showed them) that the elderly were the age group at the greatest risk of death, by far, from COVID. Others have said, and I agree, that only time will tell how much emotional and psychological damage has been done to our children and young adults as a result of lockdowns. And I haven’t even mentioned the economic devastation visited upon individuals and small businesses.
In May of 2020, I wrote a post in which I mentioned, among other things, the Hong Kong flu of 1968-69 and our response to it, which did not include lockdowns. Here’s the link, if you’re interested: https://keithpetersenblog.com/2020/05/12/a-christian-response-to-covid-19/. In it, I also wrote about fear, which seems to be the driving force behind so many of our decisions today, both at a governmental and personal level. At that time, I included Philippians Chapter 4:6-7, where we read, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Then, as now–as always–these are verses to live by.