The costs of the covid lockdowns are far too high

One of the legacy problems of Trump is that criticism of the covid response became a partisan issue. It should never have been. The Trump Administration completely botched the response to the pandemic, but that doesn't mean that doing the opposite of the Trump response is the correct response either.
Almost no one is looking at the real-world costs of the lockdowns. I'm talking about the costs in lives destroyed.

The pandemic and recession were associated with a 10% to 60% increase in deaths of despair above already high pre-pandemic levels, according to a working paper by Casey Mulligan, professor of economics at the University of Chicago. These non-COVID excess deaths are disproportionately experienced by men aged 15-55, he found. Some health professionals, however, have said such estimates are both premature and overzealous in their projections.

“From March onward, excess deaths are approximately 250,000 of which about 17,000 appear to be a COVID under-count and 30,000 non-COVID. Deaths of despair — drug overdose, suicide, alcohol — in 2017 and 2018 are good predictors of the demographic groups with [non-COVID excess deaths] in 2020,” Mulligan wrote in his paper, distributed this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
...
The government’s unemployment rate hovered at 6.7% in December, and the number of unemployed workers was 10.7 million. However, the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, argues that a breakdown of government figures and other estimates based on those paint a far bleaker picture due to the business closures and public-health restrictions related to COVID-19: 26.8 million workers are being negatively affected — or nearly 16% of the workforce.

There is some debate about the accuracy of these numbers, but fortunately I have several other studies to help bolster my point. For starters, the official numbers dramatically underestimate the economic devastation that the covid lockdowns have inflicted upon the bottom 40%.

povertyratejumps.png

The end of 2020 brought the sharpest rise in the U.S. poverty rate since the 1960s, according to a study released Monday.

Economists Bruce Meyer, from the University of Chicago, and James Sullivan of the University of Notre Dame found that the poverty rate increased by 2.4 percentage points during the latter half of 2020 as the U.S. continued to suffer the economic impacts from Covid-19.
That percentage-point rise is nearly double the largest annual increase in poverty since the 1960s. This means an additional 8 million people nationwide are now considered poor.

According to a recent Oxfam study, it's evidence of the "greatest rise in inequality since records began."
Now you may ask if this catastrophy was avoidable? Did we have to sacrifice tens of thousands of lives of poor people with the covid lockdowns, in order to save hundreds of thousands of lives of potentially wealthy people?
The answer is, no, we did not.
First, there is this study.

The most restrictive non‐pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) for controlling the spread of COVID‐19 are mandatory stay‐at‐home and business closures. Given the consequences of these policies, it is important to assess their effects. We evaluate the effects on epidemic case growth of more restrictive NPIs (mrNPIs), above and beyond those of less restrictive NPIs (lrNPIs).

Now notice this study wasn't about stupid stuff, like "wearing masks is tyranny". This was simply about measuring whether the lockdowns worked and are necessary.

Implementing any NPIs was associated with significant reductions in case growth in 9 out of 10 study countries, including South Korea and Sweden that implemented only lrNPIs (Spain had a non‐significant effect). After subtracting the epidemic and lrNPI effects, we find no clear, significant beneficial effect of mrNPIs on case growth in any country...
While small benefits cannot be excluded, we do not find significant benefits on case growth of more restrictive NPIs. Similar reductions in case growth may be achievable with less restrictive interventions.

It's pretty clear that the covid lockdowns have little to no benefit at preventing the spread of the virus. So then why are they still being used, and so few people are willing to question them?
The answer is obvious: Because the harm caused by the lockdowns falls exclusively on the working poor, and no one gives a flying fuck about the working poor. If thousands of poor people must die to save the lives of a handful of wealthy people, then the government, media, and comfortable suburban liberals will take that trade-off every time.

I'm no expert in medicine, but it seems to me that if you want to stop a pandemic, you'll want to 1) identify who is infected, and then 2) quarantine and treat those that are infected (rather than those that aren't infected).
Correct me if I'm wrong, but that seems to be the more logical way to do things.

Remember when covid first hit and getting a test for covid cost $3,000?
After a couple months, and the virus got out of control because no one was getting tested, the government subsidized covid tests.
[Update: Hospitals weren't actually charging $3K for a covid test, per se. Instead people who just wanted a covid test were being charged $3K for tests they didn't ask for, a condition built into our health care system and not fixed.
In addition, even 'free' covid tests can get you billed hundreds of dollars.]

But being treated for covid still costs tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars, so unless you are on death's doorstep you won't bother getting treated for covid.

If you want to control the virus, you must address our fucked up for-profit health care system.

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I have questions about this headline

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Plus, song for the day

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ovals49's picture

@MrWebster
are free to shelter in comfort at home. Those without resources are far more likely to take risks to put food on the table or to hold a job that does not allow indefinite absences with compensation. Speaking of compensation, countries with robust social safety nets paid workers 80-100% of their wages to shelter at home. In the US, it was a couple of checks, wholly inadequate to cover living expenses.

It is not the virus that exacerbated the plight of the working class, it is the lack of government support for working people, and the economic windfall that the economic stimulus put in the hands of the already wealthy that made a bad situation disproportionally worse for the poor, many of whom paid with their lives.

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“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” – Albert Einstein

gjohnsit and here is what I think could have been a significantly superior response:

1) Day One of the Covid Crisis----- Level with the public. "This is a dangerous virus and we don't have all the info we need."

2) Here's what we do know-----"Asian countries have long been dealing with contagious viruses by wearing masks in public. We encourage all American to Mask Up."

3) The Federal Government announces an energetic effort to discover an effective vaccine. "Operation Warp Speed is working to get a vaccine into people's arms as soon as possible."

4) Stay home if you feel sick. WAsh your hands frequently. Out doors is better than indoors. Love one another and show it by doing all you can to contain the spread of Covid-19.

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NYCVG

@NYCVG
and getting a test for covid cost $3,000?
After a couple months, and the virus got out of control because no one was getting tested, the government subsidized covid tests.

But being treated for covid still costs tens of thousands of dollars, so unless you are on death's doorstep you won't bother getting treated for covid.

If you want to control the virus, you must address our fucked up for-profit health care system.

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@gjohnsit We don't have a health care system. We have an insurance system that has denial of service for profit at it's core.

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The "two" studies you refer to are the same study. The first one just links to a pre-print and the second one to the actual published study. I think the situation is complicated, because it is impossible to know how much death would have happened without lockdowns. For sure, we would have had more COVID deaths...But how many more? We may have cut back on the economic impact, but by how much? Because people were still avoiding going out and socializing and going on vacation, etc and they would have done it with or without lockdowns. Because they don't want to catch COVID and die. So, not having lockdowns does not mean there will be no economic effect. There will be some, but how much...

The actual thing that should have been done, but was greatly bungled by the Trump administration, would have been to jump on this hard and immediately as soon as we had cases in the U.S. If we could have stopped the transmission at an early stage, we would have avoided so many deaths and because there was no COVID circulating, we could have also avoided a lot of the economic impact. Too late for that now though. We have to get through this. The best way out is to get everyone vaccinated ASAP (at least all those who will take the vaccine and don't buy the conspiracies about it).

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@Scientist34again
Thanks for pointing that out. I'll update this essay.

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@Scientist34again
Not vaccinating all the proles with experimental vaccines.
I predict more deaths from vaccines than covid.

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

@The Voice In the Wilderness The vaccines have a good safety profile so far. Yes, there have been instances of allergic reactions, but those are rare. About 20 million have been vaccinated so far and we have a handful of bad reactions. And there is tentative evidence that it is having an impact. That evidence actually comes from Israel which is ahead of us and has already vaccinated about 30% of their population. Here are a couple of articles on how things are going in Israel:

0.01% of people who received second vaccine dose became infected with Covid, Maccabi HMO reports - https://www.ynetnews.com/article/HyE9bY3yO

Israel sees 60% drop in hospitalizations for over 60s in weeks after vaccination - https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-sees-60-drop-in-hospitalizations-fo...

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@Scientist34again

Sterilization? Cancer prone? No one knows do they? How could they know?

https://thebulletin.org/2018/07/vaccine-causing-polio-in-africa-context-...

And now Gates is touting vaccines here. I'm 75. I could die today from a heart attack or stroke. Why risk a horrible lingering disease?

my mother died from cancer. She was old and poor so they did nothing but shut her into a "hospice" to live for six months knowing she was doomed and they weren't even trying. Mercifully, she was stoned on morphine the last three months.

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

Roy Blakeley's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness I am a molecular biologist whose publications have been cited about 18,000 times. I understand the virus, the mechanism of infection, the proteins involved, the mechanism of RNA replication and I understand the vaccines. I am aware of the clinical trials data. I will be vaccinated using the Moderna vaccine this week (100 micrograms of mRNA with a modified nucleotide and lipid nanoparticles to facilitate entry of the mRNA into cells).

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@Roy Blakeley
Good luck with your Russian Roulette. There is NO long term data because it's too new.

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

@Roy Blakeley
But he's from some former Soviet SSR and is used to doing what the government tells him to do.

BTW, I told him about Lookout and Vitamin D. He agreed that it's important to keep one's Vitamin D levels high and get sufficient Zinc.

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

lotlizard's picture

@Scientist34again  
at the time, doing everything to cripple Trump’s ability to lead, by hyping the bullsh– that was the first, Ukraine-centered impeachment by the House. So they share some responsibility.

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snoopydawg's picture

@lotlizard

They got the same briefing that Trump got earlier on in the epidemic and not one of them told us how bad it could get if we don’t take it seriously. Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell and others are in the gang of 8 that are briefed on everything that happens here. Not one of them said a damn thing. Why? Because their donors want us back at work dying for their wallets. This is why congress won’t bail out Main Street. Force us back into epidemic factories.

You hear about the woman who worked for Amazon testing people for Covid? From what I read she wasn’t given any PPE and died after being infected. Her family should be suing the pants off Bezos for not protecting her. Bezos should just be sued for general principles. He’s too f’cking greedy. Won’t keep his workers safe nor pay them a living wage. And Walmart is building stores just for robots to do the shopping for people and delivering it to their cars. In a separate building. For now.

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People are going to be sick for the rest of their lives and the people responsible will pay no price.

Sam thinks she’s a cat.

snoopydawg's picture

Our fucked up health care system because so many poor people were unhealthy for generations and when Covid hit they were more vulnerable. I don’t think anyone would argue that. As the LA info shows people who are more wealthy and can stay at home aren’t getting sick. Unhealthy poor people are essential workers and exposed more.

The second issue is the lack of economic support from government. But then countries that did support their workers have high business closures too.

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People are going to be sick for the rest of their lives and the people responsible will pay no price.

Sam thinks she’s a cat.

@snoopydawg
I think so, based on what Lookout has posted about Vitamin D.

But were the racial deaths (Hispanic and AA vs European) adjusted for race, class, and population density?

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

snoopydawg's picture

@The Voice In the Wilderness

I do know that they are 3 times more likely to become infected and die from it here in this country. The same might be happening elsewhere.

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People are going to be sick for the rest of their lives and the people responsible will pay no price.

Sam thinks she’s a cat.

@snoopydawg
people stuck in tenements get sick easier and more often than people living in single family house on lots from 1/4 acre up.

Diseses LOVE crowded prey host populations.

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I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

I was attacked relentlessly and some noted it was almost DKos-like.

Duly noted.

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lotlizard's picture

@Battle of Blair Mountain  
You’re just going on your way, straight ahead, not taking any turns or crossing any edges, but after a while you find yourself in the place you were before, but with everything reversed, upside-down, in the exact opposite position…

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/mathematical-madness-mobiu...

Politics is a non-orientable surface?

Maybe I’ve been hitting the Klein bottle too much…

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I'm thinking mostly New Zealand. They went immediately to extreme lockdown and apparently had great results. But they are an island and can control people's mobility far easier - did that matter? Was it something else that we can isolate?
And what about America? It's easy to blame Trump - and essentially valid to do so - but then what about Andrew Cuomo and now Gavin Newsome?

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On to Biden since 1973

Dawn's Meta's picture

addressed in this short space. However I do have personal opinions and observations.

One of the main premises addressed here and earlier by Battle of the Blair is the tactic or strategy of identifying the sick and separating them from the possibly healthy population. That is an historic method for stopping infectious spreading. As far as I know, this was not attempted world-wide with some possible exceptions. New Zealand? Test and trace sought to accomplish this where it was rigorously applied.

The reason Ebola can be contained is because it kills its host so fast it has little time to spread. Isolating the sick is the surest way of stopping the spread. CoSARs 2 is slower and more effective in its spread. And becoming more effective as mutations occur.

As people are unable to participate, pay them and their families so they can maintain a healthy diet, housing, utilities and other needs.

Use emergency powers to implement a medical response that is paid for so that no one goes untreated for cost of care.

These methods would be far less expensive than the way we have gone about it so far.

NYCVG I agree with everything you wrote: if only. One statement should have been strengthened: people don't seem to react to suggestions. So without making mask wearing mandatory, it should have been said that it is mandatory that masks be worn if you want to save your own life and those around you. Then access to good masks had to be assured. People had to be told to cover their noses, which is a frequent problem. It's virtually like not wearing a mask. Proper shaped and layered masks manufactured as quickly as possible, from anywhere.

Some people really have problems with masks if they have COPD or other respiratory conditions such as Asthma. There certainly must be ways to make their lives more comfortable and healthy at the same time. Currently they shift for themselves.

We move to vaccines in due time. It will take time and the results will be known as we get past a few months with each manufacturer product in peoples' systems.

There is a point before vaccination that could be very helpful, available and less expensive: treatment and prevention. Many viruses are treated rather than vaccinated for. There have been researchers and doctors world-wide who have had the ability to see what may be working in their populations. Sitting around waiting for vaccines while it takes time to make them happen is more and more difficult. This is one of the shorter statements but deserves a much more emphatic position. Prevention and treatment are valid modes of addressing something we may all have contact with before it has run its course. This is by its nature, world-wide and extensive. We are now behind it. Mutations are occurring. We give people a better chance by helping them strengthen themselves and work on treatments for the day they have become infected.

Strengthening each person for the onslaught of pathogens is a more achievable and usually less expensive. Yes, when the vaccines arrive, do it all.

It needs to be said about vaccines: they have a job. It is to cause the body to create antibodies to a particular infection so that when the real thing comes along, the body sends in the reinforcements to fight it off.

One of the by-products of antibody response is inflammation. Histamines and Cytokines are part of the immune response to a perceived invasion. There are many people in which this response is switched on already and encouraging a greater response or one more could be serious. People with allergies to the excipients, which are rarely listed, so even a client's own doctor may not know if the vaccine has ingredients the person in front of them cannot handle. People with Asthma, allergies, COPD, other so-called immune system illnesses are more than just a few. Crohn's, Interstitial Cystitis, other diseases with heightened immune response in progress, present a challenge to those wishing to partake in the vaccines.

Labeling those doctors, nurses, and patients with valid concerns as anti vaxxers and by extension suggesting if they don't get vaccinated they are threats, is a dangerous route. Understanding what may or may not work, would be far better.

Mammals, of which humans are members, are wonderfully complex and have interactive systems. To blithely subject any member with a novel treatment or preventative without knowing the possible downsides is grossly negligent.

I would also posit that it is possible without whole vaccines, the partial vaccines may make mutations more possible unless we could say vaccinate everyone (who could stay healthy) within a week.

This a complex set of problems, not just science and health, but cultural, societal, financial and so on. The best of the best should be working on these problems and reaching out to everyone down to the neighborhood level. For information, reactions, needs, ideas. It is a global emergency.

We should treat it that way.

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A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. Allegedly Greek, but more possibly fairly modern quote.

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QMS's picture

@Dawn's Meta

Wish the administrators could envision this complex set of solutions.

Thanks!

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It's been very depressing watching Ioannidis continue to pour gasoline on the dumpster fire of his reputation.

They looked at 10 countries, all having disparate political, cultural, geographic and demographic profiles. They had only 2 from which to extract their model of the effects of a "low-intensity" lockdown approach. On the higher-intensity side, they excluded the other Nordic nations, all of which make Sweden's response look like a disaster; they also excluded New Zealand and Australia.

Bottom line: Their models are meaningless. Very sad to see. Ioannidis should know better. He does know better, but he's been blinded by something, I don't know what, maybe some reactionary ideology that was not previously particularly evident in his work.

Very, very sad.

That is all.

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The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

enhydra lutris's picture

has been around since very early on and has almost become a meme, but it is still, IMHO, erroneous. It is the cost of the government refusing to appropriately support the people and society during the lockdowns that it too high. OH, the horrors, a lot of sufferring from lack of income from unemployment - NO! OH, the horrors from the government not doling out sufficient economic support to the unemployment to enable them to have a good standard of living during this time - YES! They can copntinue to give trillions of essentially welfare payments to the rich and powerful and their corporations, and barely an occasional pittance to the suffering hoi polloi - that is a government failing, its job is to do for the people what they cannot do themselves and this is exactly what they were meant to do, bail out the people, and the mainstreet and underserved and underemployed populace and quit elevating the elite further.

be well and have a good one

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --