Is There Any Evidence That ‘Stay at Home’ Lockdowns Work?

Masks, contact-tracing, comprehensive testing, travel restrictions, and quarantining the sick all have proven to be effective methods of mitigating transmission of the virus and are supported by evidence — ‘stay at home lockdowns,’ not so much.

By King Lars and Captain Semantics

Photo by Brian McGowan

Hold your horses. Before you brush this off as some screed in favor of prematurely opening up the economy at the expense of your grandma, take a deep breath and hear us out. The mere questioning of lockdowns is not analogous to the repudiation of social distancing, masks, or any measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. 

On the contrary, the lack of evidence for lockdowns seems to contradict the well established efficacy of contact tracing, mandatory masks, and social distancing. To start, let’s first define exactly what ‘lockdowns’ are.

For the purpose of this discussion, lockdowns consist of stay at home orders and the closure of ‘unnecessary’ businesses. This definition does not include school closures, of which there is ample evidence of effectiveness, or of mass gatherings such as concerts and sporting events which have been confirmed to act as ‘superspreader’ events. Our understanding of ‘lockdown’ here is the closing of cities down to a point of diminished returns on virus mitigation. 

Travel restrictions, quarantining the sick, or mandatory testing are not really lockdowns. They are just proven tactics in blunting the spread of infectious diseases. Local ordinances that people wear masks are not lockdowns; they are an efficacious practice. It is no secret that respiratory infections are transmitted through respiratory droplets. Masks have been proven to reduce the spread of these droplets. If you are anti-mask, get over it. 

Over the course of the pandemic, the argument in the media has been to defer to the experts. However, paradoxically, officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) have come out against lockdowns as the go-to method of deterring the coronavirus pandemic. While there are some benefits to lockdowns, overall, they have a much greater capability of inflicting long-lasting economic damage that many have argued would far outweigh the repercussions of the virus. 

“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus. Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer.”

– World Health Organization Special Envoy Dr. David Nabarro

Joe Biden has recently come out in support of an extended lockdown at the start of his presidency. We all know how that ends. We were gaslit long ago with the notion of “fifteen days to stop the spread,” the media’s canned slogan at the start of the pandemic back in March. However, fifteen days quickly extended in nearly eight months, and we still find ourselves in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic — with no real end in sight. There is speculation that a Biden administration will utilize federal powers to mandate lockdowns yet only in regions where the virus can not be otherwise put under control. So this does not quite translate to a comprehensive, nationwide lockdown — something many critics say is just about impossible in the absence of martial law.

At this point, we have all experienced lockdowns. With a few exceptions, there have been many experiments with lockdowns to combat the coronavirus. However, cases continue to rise, despite mask measures being in place across the country and many states still in the grips of a lockdown. 

When are we going to admit the cure is indeed *sometimes* worse than the disease? 

white and red no smoking sign

The reality shows that there has been little evidence that lockdowns really work. What they have managed to accomplish is to decimate the economy and leave millions in the country without jobs. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) found that global growth in 2020 decreased by nearly 3%. Despite the reliance on lockdowns throughout Europe and the United States to curb the growth of the virus, COVID-19 cases are growing faster than ever

There is a lack of real evidence showing that lockdowns really work in the way they are intended. The best source of evidence that lockdowns can work would be in Wuhan, China, where the government instituted a very strict lockdown and was able to make progress in curbing the virus’ growth. However, such a lockdown would be largely unenforceable in the United States, with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. top infectious disease expert, claiming that Americans have “no appetite” for extended lockdowns. 

In reality, any data coming from China should be viewed with skepticism at best. In Spain, statistics showed that declines in cases started days before the country implemented a lockdown, with deaths plateauing around ten to fifteen days following lockdown measures. Similar findings can be found when looking at France’s lockdown: cases declined soon before lockdowns were enacted, stealing credibility from the efficacy of national lockdowns to combat the virus. 

Perhaps the most damning of the lockdown narrative are the states and nations that didn’t do anything and went largely unaffected. Sweden has often been touted as the prime example of ‘herd immunity,’ the idea that the public will build up immunity over time. Sweden and Netherlands both chose to not implement lockdowns, and both countries find themselves in better footing than those that did. This data is, of course, changing daily. The narratives governing Sweden’s lack of restrictions are constantly changing with media vacillating between the country as an example of what is working or exactly what not to do

In the United States, the data is contradictory to what you would expect. Every two weeks a stay-at-home order is in place across the country, the death rate in that state would be one person per 100,000. 

Maybe those arguing to “listen to the scientists” should take some of their own advice. The evidence just isn’t there and there is a growing consensus that knee-jerk lockdowns are not as effective as proven methods such as masks, testing, and quarantining the sick. However, the economic hellhole we find ourselves in is very real. The rich get richer as people waste their hiked unemployment and stimulus on Amazon orders and Ubereats delivery — putting the government funds back into the coffers of corporate America. 

When things don’t work, you make changes. It’s time that politicians take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that their actions are not in the favor of their constituents. 

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