Shutdowns Kill

At, my colleague John Phelan notes research indicating that many thousands of people will die, not from COVID, but from the shutdowns that have been implemented to try to slow the spread of the virus. Whether much benefit has been gained from these shutdowns is debatable, but the costs are not:

On the one hand, policymakers have, too often, oversold the benefits of their measures. On the other, they have downplayed any costs: indeed, pointing out that these costs exist at all is likely to get you branded a ‘Covid denier’.

But these costs are very real. As I wrote in June, the economic suppression in the name of fighting Covid-19 will hurt today’s graduates for years to come.

The studies that John writes about cover only a portion of the damages caused by shutdowns, but the numbers are nevertheless daunting:

Our results demonstrate that health, mortality, and economic and personal well-being in midlife can bear the lasting scars of disadvantages that come during young adulthood. Simply put, the bad luck of leaving school during hard times can lead to higher rates of early death and permanent differences in life circumstances.”

Another assessment of these costs comes from economists Francesco Bianchi, Giada Bianchi, and Dongho Song in a new paper titled ‘The Long-Term Impact of the COVID-19 Unemployment Shock on Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates’. They “investigate the historical relation between unemployment, life expectancy, and mortality rates” and “find that shocks to unemployment are followed by statistically significant increases in mortality rates and declines in life expectancy”:

The numbers are striking:

That is 890,000 deaths resulting from the Covid-19 recession, 59,300 annually for the next 15 years.

Then, too, we have the United Nations telling us that hundreds of thousands of children will die in the underdeveloped world as a result of the shutdown-induced collapse in demand from developed countries.

It is too bad that people in their 70s, 80s and 90s (and up) are dying prematurely due to the Wuhan flu. But the fact that we have devastated the lives of our children and young people in response–the issues considered in John Phelan’s post are only the tip of the iceberg–is unforgivable.

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