Once-thriving businesses at CityPlace in West Palm Beach, Florida, are boarded up and deserted amid the coronavirus pandemic on Jan. 30, 2021. (Photo by Joe Kovacs)
Stanford doc: Lockdowns ‘biggest public health mistake’ ever
‘Catastrophic’ harms will be felt for a generation
By Art Moore
As a growing number of states ease their COVID-19 restrictions, a prominent Stanford medical professor and health economist is doubling down on his contention that the lockdowns are the “biggest public health mistake we’ve ever made.”
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of the Stanford Medical School made the remark in an interview with the Daily Clout last month and confirmed it to Newsweek in a story posted Monday.
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (Courtesy Stanford Medical School)
“I stand behind my comment that the lockdowns are the single worst public health mistake in the last 100 years,” he said. “We will be counting the catastrophic health and psychological harms, imposed on nearly every poor person on the face of the earth, for a generation.”
Bhattacharya, a co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration, a petition calling for the end of COVID-19 lockdowns, argued the measures “have not served to control the epidemic in the places where they have been most vigorously imposed.”
“In the U.S., they have – at best – protected the ‘non-essential’ class from COVID, while exposing the essential working class to the disease,” said Bhattacharya, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford and a health economist with the Freeman Spogli Institute’s Center for Health Policy.
He called the lockdowns “trickle down epidemiology.”
The Great Barrington Declaration has received signatures from more 13,000 medical and public health scientists, more than 41,000 medical practitioners and at least 754,399 “concerned citizens.”
The declaration is based on the fact that older people with multiple comorbidities have a much higher risk of dying of COVID-19 than others.
At a Senate hearing in December, as WND reported, Bhattacharya explained the declaration’s two planks.
“For older people, COVID-19 is a deadly disease that should be met with overwhelming resources aimed at protecting them wherever they are, whether in nursing homes, at their own home, in the workplace, or multi-generational homes,” he said. “They should be prioritized for vaccines, and we should be actively seeking widely available and effective treatments.”
But for “the non-vulnerable, who face far greater harm from the lockdowns than they do from COVID-19 infection risk, the lockdowns should be lifted and – for those who so decide – normal life resumed.”
Last September, Bhattacharya participated in a roundtable with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in which he said the wide scale lockdowns actually increase the risk to the vulnerable, slowing down the building of herd immunity for the population.
Governors lifting lockdowns
On Tuesday, Maryland’s Larry Hogan became the latest governor to announced a lifting of many coronavirus restrictions, although he will leave in place the state’s mask mandate.
Hogan said that “with the pace of vaccinations rapidly rising and our health metrics steadily improving, the lifting of these restrictions is a prudent, positive step in the right direction and an important part of our economic recovery.”
On Monday, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon announced he will lift the statewide mask mandate on March 16 along with other restrictions on businesses.
One week ago, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced his state will open “100%” and end the statewide mask mandate, arguing cases and hospitalizations have dropped precipitously, vaccines are being distributed and “too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities” and “too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills.”
Later March 2, Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves announced he is replacing all current executive orders regarding coronavirus mitigation with “recommendations.”
By the end of the week, at least six other states followed with significant moves.
On Thursday, Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey extended her state’s mask order for another month but said it will end for good April 9.
Connecticut Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday he will lift on March 19 all capacity limits on restaurants, retail stores, libraries, personal services, indoor recreation, gyms, museums, offices and houses of worship.
Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday announced all businesses will reopen at 100% capacity.
West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice said bars, restaurants, small businesses, retail stores, gyms and museums can open to 100% capacity.
California will allow Major League Baseball and theme parks such as Disneyland to host live shows at reduced capacity on April 1.
Axios reported the Centers for Disease Control is allowing shelters handling child migrants to expand to 100% capacity, abandoning a COVID-19 requirement to stay at 50%.
After Abbott’s announcement, President Biden charged Republican governors removing COVID-19 restrictions, including mask mandates, reflect a “Neanderthal thinking” that ignores science.
“I hope everybody realizes by now, these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms,” Biden said while occasionally tugging at his mask.
“The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything is fine, take off your mask, forget it,” he said.
However, as WND reported, the first large, randomized controlled trial of its kind showed no statistically significant difference in COVID-19 cases between people who wore masks and those who did not.
Further, a peer-reviewed study published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation on Jan. 5 comparing cases in 10 countries, including the U.S., found lockdowns and other mitigation measures to be ineffective.
The researchers found “no clear, significant beneficial effect of [more restrictive measures] on case growth in any country.”
“We do not question the role of all public health interventions, or of coordinated communications about the epidemic, but we fail to find an additional benefit of stay-at-home orders and business closures,” the researchers said.
WND reported in February the 11 U.S. states that did not impose comprehensive lockdowns over the fall and winter in response to the coronavirus fared better than states that did, according to an analysis of public data.
In January 2021, WND reported a Canadian infectious-disease specialist who initially supported the lockdowns changed his mind, concluding in his peer-reviewed study that the harm is 10 times worse than the benefits.
One year ago, a top coronavirus adviser for Joe Biden was in agreement.
Michael T. Osterholm, a professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, formerly advocated the “focused protection” strategy now promoted by epidemiologists at Stanford and Oxford advising Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: With a 99% survival rate for most, according to the Centers for Disease Control, let the healthy go about their business while protecting the vulnerable, the people over 70 with multiple life-threatening diseases.
Osterholm warned in a March 21, 2020, op-ed for the Washington Post of the high economic and social costs of “the near-draconian lockdowns” in effect at the time in China and Italy, which ultimately don’t reduce the number of cases. In November 2020, however, he advocated a national lockdown of four to six weeks.
The CDC estimates a 99.997% survival rate for those from birth to age 19 who contract COVID-19. It’s 99.98% for ages 20-49, 99.5% for 50-69 and 94.6% for those over 70. Significantly, those who died of coronavirus, according to the CDC, had an average of 2.6 comorbidities, meaning more than two chronic diseases along with COVID-19. Overall, the CDC says, just 6% of the people counted as COVID-19 deaths died of COVID-19 alone.
Art Moore, co-author of the best-selling book “See Something, Say Nothing,” entered the media world as a PR assistant for the Seattle Mariners and a correspondent covering pro and college sports for Associated Press Radio. He reported for a Chicago-area daily newspaper and was senior news writer for Christianity Today magazine and an editor for Worldwide Newsroom before joining WND shortly after 9/11. He earned a master’s degree in communications from Wheaton College.