Even some on the left have had it with lockdowns

Yesterday, John wrote about a study (a study of studies, actually) that says lockdowns have had little to no effect in preventing deaths from covid. I remain unpersuaded of this proposition and will probably explain why before too long.

However, I agree that extended lockdowns have imposed significant costs that likely exceed any benefits. In addition, it’s clear to me that schools should have reopened for in-person learning no later than August 2020 and that, as a general matter, nearly all lockdown-type restrictions should be eschewed going forward during this pandemic.

These views seem to be gaining traction on the left. Today’s Washington Post has a frontpage story about how “public education is facing a crisis of epic proportions” due in large part to school closings and reliance on remote learning. It reports:

Test scores are down and violence is up. Parents are screaming at school boards and children are crying on the couches of social workers. . . .

Remote learning, the toll of illness and death, and disruptions to a dependable routine have left students academically behind — particularly students of color and those from poor families. Behavior problems ranging from inability to focus in class all the way to deadly gun violence have gripped campuses. Many students and teachers say they are emotionally drained, and experts predict schools will be struggling with the fallout for years to come.

The Post may be underestimating the ability of young people to bounce back from adversity, but I agree with its assessment that public schools will have trouble bouncing back (which may not be a bad thing).

More evidence of liberal discontent comes from Matthew Yglesias. He writes:

Covid-19 mitigation measures are causing burdens over and above the burden of disease per se. To the extent that disruptions are caused by sickness, we would expect to see more disruptions in conservative parts of the country with low vaccination rates. Instead, we see equal if not greater disruptions in liberal parts of the country, even though the higher vaccination rate reduces the burden of disease. That’s because those jurisdictions are implementing Covid-19 mitigation measures with costs that exceed their benefits.

Yglesias advises Joe Biden to “forcefully articulate a pathway for re-normalization,” particularly regarding public schools.

Rich Lowry says Biden is very unlikely to follow this advice. Lowry is probably right, but why?

There’s a school of thought among conservatives that leftists want to keep various covid restrictions, such as mandatory mask wearing, in place because they love to restrict freedom. It’s possible that this charge is accurate in the case of some leftists, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t explain Biden’s conduct.

Think back to July 4 of last year when Biden proudly declared our independence, in effect, from the pandemic. Other things being equal, he would love to see an end to covid restrictions. It would help him considerably. That’s why he said what he did on July 4.

The problem is that Biden doesn’t believe that other things are equal. The spike in deaths attributed to the virus hurts him politically — more than ongoing lockdown and mask restrictions imposed by states and localities do. This is especially true because of the way Biden flogged Donald Trump with covid death numbers and because he promised to bring the pandemic to a halt.

Biden may or may not think that, in these days of high vaccination rates and a milder variant, covid restrictions reduce covid deaths. He may or may not care. What he fears is that calling for an easing, which he is largely powerless to impose, will damage him politically if covid deaths remain high.

I question whether Biden is making the correct political calculation, but I’m confident that his calculation is political, and has nothing to do with wanting to oppress Americans.

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