Eight Reasons to Support Reopening Our Country

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Several governors are beginning to engage in opening their states. Good. They should wait no further. As each day goes by, we learn more and more about the coronavirus and its effects, and the facts lead toward getting adults back to work and children back to school. We suggest a focus away from the blare and glare of raw death tolls and worst-case scenarios. Instead let’s look at less-alarming truths that are generally being ignored by a media more invested in shock and frenzy. Perhaps we should start with these:

  1. The first numbers we heard were that the coronavirus would kill up to 2.2 million Americans. This dire prediction was the first out of the box and it stuck in too many minds, struck too much fear, and still lingers. 
  1. The correction came late in March, as we were told to expect between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the U.S. But the death toll estimates keep coming in lower and lower. We are being told this is because of mitigation and distancing orders. Forgotten is that those six-figure numbers included and factored in mitigation and social distancing orders. That is, experts and government officials now tell us our numbers are lower because we are doing what they told us to do, but social distancing was always part and parcel of their high predictions. The same model used to predict 100,000 or more deaths now tells us to expect something closer to 60,000 deaths. Now, some health departments are artificially inflating their numbers. New York City’s Health Department is now counting “probable” COVID-19 deaths. As Dr. Deborah Birx put it, unlike other countries, “We’ve taken a very liberal approach to mortality . . . if someone dies with COVID-19, we are counting that as a COVID-19 death.”
  1. The per capita infection and death rates and dates of lockdown in various states confirm our questioning of not only one-lockdown-fits-all policies, but also the effectiveness of lockdowns themselves. Lockdowns don’t appear to be highly correlated with infection and death rates. Look at the timing. California, our largest state by far, locked down only three days before New York. Per capita, California’s infection rate is 6% that of New York’s, and its death rate is 4%. Florida, also more populous than New York, locked down almost two weeks after New York. Per capita, Florida’s infection rate is 9% that of New York’s, and it has had 4% of its death rate. Ohio locked down one day after New York, and yet Ohio’s death rate is only 5% that of New York’s. Missouri locked down more than two weeks after New York, but its infection rate is 7% of New York’s, and it has 4% the death rate. The rest of the country is not New York. 
  1. A recent Stanford University study reveals the virus is 50-85 times less deadly than initially thought. The infection/mortality rate of COVID-19 is not the 2% to 5% rate others have surmised, wrongly, but one somewhere in the small hundredths-of-a-single-percent range. An even newer study done at the University of Southern California comes to the same conclusion for Los Angeles County. 
  1. The closing of our schools is an increasing curiosity. We drastically transfigured over 55 million children’s educational and social lives to protect them from a virus that affects them less than the annual flu. As of this writing, a total of three children have died from the virus in New York City -- each of whom had underlying health conditions. Fewer than 10 children have died nationally from COVID-19, although about 80 have died from the flu. The argument that children could spread the new coronavirus to adults is true, but that is true of the flu as well. This has put an additional burden on families, children, and, for our poorest, has ripped millions of them from nutritious meals and trusted adults and institutions.
  1. All perspective was lost. We have needed to hospitalize just over 80,000 people for this illness. The previous two flu seasons in America required nearly half a million hospitalizations. As Dr. Jonathan Geach has written: “Our health care system is now underwhelmed and health care workers are being laid off and furloughed in droves as a result of health care centers having neglected patient care not related to COVID-19 in fear of a COVID-19 surge that failed to materialize on a nationwide basis. This means tens of millions of patients are failing to receive the medical care they need in a timely manner. Almost every hospital outside of the hot spots is empty.” At the Mayo Clinic, as one example, he reports “65% of the hospital beds are empty, as are 75% of the operating rooms.” 
  1. Our overreaction to this epidemic will create myriad other health problems. California Rep. Tom McClintock put it well: “How many of the 1.8 million new cancers each year in the United States will go undetected for months because routine screenings and appointments have been postponed? How many heart, kidney, liver, and pulmonary illnesses will fester while people’s lives are on hold? How many suicides or domestic homicides will occur as families watch their livelihoods evaporate before their eyes? How many drug and alcohol deaths can we expect as Americans stew in their homes under police-enforced indefinite home detention orders? How many new cases of obesity-related diabetes and heart disease will emerge as Americans are banished from outdoor recreation and instead spend their idle days within a few steps of the refrigerator?” If you don’t want to listen to a Republican congressman, how about the United Nations: “The economic hardship experienced by families as a result of the global economic downturn could result in hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths in 2020, reversing the last 2 to 3 years of progress in reducing infant mortality within a single year.”
  1. The political posturing, while predictable, is hypocritical and often one-sided. The Trump administration did not neglect this virus. Instead, Democrats criticized the administration for doing too much and for too little at the same time. The travel ban from China was “xenophobic” in late January, but his declaration of a national emergency in early March was too late. Meanwhile, not one word about this virus was uttered at the February Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, even though China was brought up several times in other contexts, such as in trade and defense policy. As late as Feb. 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was telling people, “We think it’s safe to come to Chinatown and hope others will come.” And, on the last day of February, the principle expert on whom the president relies and the press reveres, Dr. Anthony Fauci, stated: “Right now, at this moment, there is no need to change anything you are doing on a day-by-day basis.”

Almost all of us are interested in the health, safety, and well-being of the American people. The daily death rate should decline dramatically in the next two weeks, and, by the end of the summer, most of this will be in the rear-view mirror. Already, we are being warned that a second wave of the virus will hit us in the autumn. Perhaps, but this is a certainty: There will be a second wave of this crisis that will result from massive unemployment and all the mental and social illnesses and deaths that will come from that and the other policies the lockdowns and shutdowns are bringing. In short, there will be more pain and hardship -- and perhaps more deaths -- from the convulsing of our country as a result of the response to the coronavirus than from the coronavirus itself. The governors of our 50 states have real jobs — so do almost all other Americans. They should all be given them back while they still exist.

William J. Bennett is the former secretary of education and director of the National Office of Drug Control Policy.

Seth Leibsohn is a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute and the host of "The Seth Leibsohn Show," heard daily on 960am/KKNT in Phoenix, Ariz.



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