Over the last four months, Americans have lived through what is arguably the most consequential period of government malfeasance in U.S. history. Public officials’ overreaction to the novel coronavirus put American cities into a coma; those same officials’ passivity in the face of widespread rioting threatens to deliver the coup de grâce. Together, these back-to-back governmental failures will transform the Ameri- can polity and cripple urban life for decades.
Before store windows started shattering in the name of racial justice, urban existence was already on life support, thanks to the coronavirus lockdowns. Small businesses—the restaurants and shops that are the lifeblood of cities—were shuttered, many for good, leaving desolate rows of “For Rent” signs on street after street in New York City and elsewhere. Americans huddled in their homes for months on end, believing that if they went outside, death awaited them.
This panic was occasioned by epidemiological models predicting wildly unlikely fatalities from the coronavirus.
On March 30, the infamous Imperial College London model predicted 2.2 million deaths in the U.S. by September 1, absent government action. That prediction was absurd on its face, given the dispersal of the U.S. population and the fact that China’s coronavirus death toll had already levelled off at a few thousand. The authors of that study soon revised it radically downwards.
Too late. It had already become the basis for the exercise of unprecedented government power. California was the first state to lock down its economy and confine its citizens to their homes; eventually almost every other state would follow suit, under enormous media pressure to do so.
Never before had public officials required millions of lawful businesses to shut their doors, throwing tens of millions of people out of work. They did so at the command of one particular group of experts—those in the medical and public health fields—who viewed their mandate as eliminating one particular health risk with every means put at their disposal. If the politicians who followed their advice weighed a greater set of considerations, balancing the potential harm from the virus against the harm from the shutdowns, they showed no sign of it. Instead, governors and mayors started rolling out one emergency decree after another to terminate economic activity, seemingly heedless of the consequences.
The lockdown mandates employed mind-numbingly arbitrary distinctions. Wine stores and pot dispensaries were deemed “essential” and thus allowed to stay open; medical offices were required to close. Large grocery stores got the green light; small retail establishments with only a few customers each day were out of luck. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer notoriously used her red pen within megastores to bar the sale of seeds, gardening supplies, and paint.
It was already clear when these crushing mandates started pouring forth that shutting down every corner of the country was a reckless overreaction. By mid-March, two weeks before the Imperial College model was published, Italian health data showed that the coronavirus was terribly lethal to a very small subset of the population—the elderly infirm—and a minor health problem to nearly everyone else who was not already severely ill. The median age of coronavirus decedents in Italy was 80, and they died with a median of nearly three comorbidities, such as heart disease and diabetes. The lead author of the Imperial College model has admitted that up to two-thirds of all coronavirus fatalities would have died from their comorbidities by the end of 2020 anyway.
Three months later, this profile of coronavirus casualties still holds true. Public health interventions could have been targeted at that highly vulnerable population without forcing the American economy into a death spiral.
By now it is impossible to attribute the media’s failure to publicize the facts about the coronavirus to mere oversight.
Every story that does not mention, preferably at the top, the vast overrep- resentation of nursing home deaths in the coronavirus death count—above 50 percent in many countries and 80 percent in several of our states—is a story that is deliberately concealing the truth. Casual readers and viewers have been left with the false impression that everyone is equally at risk, and thus that draconian measures are justified.
The media have been equally unin- terested in the scientific evidence regarding outdoor transmission. Coronavirus infections require what Japan calls the three Cs: confined spaces, crowded places, and close contact. The fleeting encounters on sidewalks and public parks that char- acterize much of city life simply do not result in transmission. And yet if you briskly approach someone on one of Manhattan’s broad and now empty sidewalks, the oncoming pedestrian may lunge into the street or press up against the closest wall in abject fear if you are not wearing a mask. You may be cursed at.
The public health establishment has been equally complicitous in creat- ing this widespread ignorance. It has failed to stress at every opportunity that for the vast majority of the public, the coronavirus is at most an inconve- nience. The public health experts did not disclose that outdoors was the safest place to be and that people should get out of their homes and into the fresh air.
Not coincidentally, the experts’ new- found power over nearly every aspect of American life was dependent on the maintenance of fear.
While the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has been demographically circumscribed and lower than the previous flu pandemics of 1968, 1956, and 1918 when adjusted for population, the economic toll has cut across every sector of the country and every population group. Whole industries have seen their capital wiped out overnight.
Despite a better than expected employment report in early June, the long-term effects of the shutdowns and the continuing mandates to socially distance will prevent a full economic recovery for years to come.
As of this week the death rate of Wisconsinites who test positive is 0.9 percent. The idiot governor Evers this week asked for Wisconsinites to voluntarily lock themselves down. Since Evers’ statewide mask mandate took effect Aug. 1 the number of coronavirus positive tests has nearly quadrupled. And yet it seems likely that Americans will vote for candidates to destroy the economy further because they are cowards afraid of dying, when, to quote Jim Morrison, no one here gets out alive.