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Letters: Lockdown vs. No Lockdown

[additional-authors]
May 20, 2020

Lockdown vs. No Lockdown

Dennis Prager claims stay-at-home and social distancing laws were the greatest mistake in history due to their effects on famine in Third World countries and the collapse of the global food supply without explaining what “lockdown” laws were instituted in these Third World countries and how these laws led to the food shortages. He downplays the hundreds of thousands and even millions of lives saved by these laws. (“The Worldwide Lockdown May Be the Greatest Mistake in History,” May 8.)

In contrast, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in an Orthodox Union virtual conversation on April 19, pointed out that until the Torah introduced the value of the preciousness of every human life, ancient societies that built the Tower of Babel and the pyramids in ancient Egypt didn’t care if a life was lost during these projects as long as the project was completed. According to Sacks, every country in the world adopted the Torah value of human life over material values.

This is not a right vs. left issue as polls have consistently shown that both Republicans and Democrats favor stay-at-home and social distancing laws. Thus the “lockdown” shows Torah values are upheld by all countries.
Theodore C. Friedman, M.D., Ph.D., Endocrinology, Metabolism and Molecular Medicine

There is a fundamental point that Prager doesn’t understand. Without the mitigation efforts, there still would be enormous economic effects, perhaps even worse than what currently is happening.

Countries that were late in imposing lockdowns saw a big downturn in economic activity before the lockdowns began. Not wanting to contract the virus keeps people home. He doesn’t understand that this virus isn’t only deadly and fast spreading, massive numbers of people, much more than we are seeing now, would be incapacitated for weeks at a time beside an unimaginably huge number of deaths. It is not a choice of a lockdown and no economic effects versus a lockdown and a severe downturn. That is a false choice.

As far as the United Nations World Food Program report, he evidently didn’t read it. It says that the disruption caused by overburdened health systems and sickened vulnerable populations would result in economic collapse, the effect of which would be a disrupted food chain that potentially would kill more people than the virus itself. The virus is still the devil here, not the lockdowns. It did say that there will be funding shortfalls because of weakened economies of the countries that provide aid.

Prager really confuses cause and effect. Why do you think Oregon has only 109 deaths — the lockdown. Does he think that Oregon’s economy would prosper if hundreds of thousands of people got sick and many thousands died?

Sweden, by the way, has a partial lockdown. It is not correct to say the country doesn’t have a lockdown. It may be on the right track with its approach but it has paid a high price in deaths.

As for confusing evils with mistakes, I believe that Prager’s dislike of a mythical “left” is causing him to give terrible advice based on his distorted thinking.
Jeff Katz, Torrance

How about this, Dennis Prager, and your assertion that the lockdown could be the “greatest mistake in history.” Setting aside the hyperbole, I’ll make a deal with you: I’ll strongly advocate for opening up America if you agree that anyone who ignores CDC guidelines and contracts the coronavirus be put at the end of the line for medical treatment behind those who played by the rules. Deal?
Michael Janofsky, Los Angeles

No matter what horrendous global issue the world is facing, the fact that Dennis Prager finds a way of blaming the left surely makes him the most hyperbolic opinion writer in history, or at least in the pages of the Journal. First of all, Prager is at the same time blaming the left for the lockdown in the United States and the world. However, of course, there are numerous right-wing authoritarian countries that somehow also were controlled by the “left” in a lockdown.

Prager, of course, frames that the “elites” don’t care about real people’s problems in Bangladesh and Oregon. “Elite,” of course, could be used to describe Prager, as a successful commercial media entrepreneur. Prager, of course is one of the very influential “elites,” just with a conservative bent.

And like all Prager’s hyperbole, he never discusses what the lockdowns got right. He didn’t discuss how Israel, through its much more structured lockdown (which, of course, went hand in hand with adequate testing and contact tracing), limited deaths to fewer than 250 and cases to fewer than 17,000.

Prager doesn’t give any suggestion of what the adequate scale of lockdown might be but knows how to blame the left for any of its failures.

Prager ends his bombastic piece by blaming the elites for ignoring the “less fortunate” who are crying. You know who else is crying, Prager, the families of those who lost loved ones because governments sat on their hands because they would rather be able to blame elites than actually solve problems.
Mark Treitel, Los Angeles

Prager responds to Theodore C. Friedman: If the new criterion for setting societal policies is saving one life, where was Dr. Friedman’s voice whenever speed limits have been raised? Every 5 mph increase in the speed limit increases highway deaths by 8.5%. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 37,000 people died in the past 25 years because states raised speed limits. I also assume Dr. Friedman supports “stop and frisk,” the New York City police policy that has been abandoned because of civil rights concerns. According to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the policy saved about 7,300 lives.

Regarding world hunger, perhaps Dr. Friedman missed the Los Angeles Times headline on May 11: “The economic devastation wrought by the pandemic could ultimately kill more people than the virus itself.” The only problem with the headline is its misrepresentation of reality: The economic devastation was wrought by the lockdown, supported by Dr. Friedman.

When you add the hundreds of millions around the world and the tens of millions of our fellow Americans left jobless, you have one of, if not the most foolish, least morally-defensible worldwide mistakes ever made. Not to mention the police-state edicts that many Americans, and most American Jews, are at peace with. I never thought I would say it, but God bless Sweden, the one country to provide proof as to the destructiveness of the worldwide lockdown.

Dr. Friedman wrote it is not a left-right issue. Of course it is. Overwhelmingly, conservative columnists oppose the lockdown, and overwhelmingly, left-wing columnists support it. Just read the editorial and opinion pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post and compare them with the editorial and opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal. And compare the edicts of Govs. Gavin Newsom of California, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Kate Brown of Oregon and other Democratic governors with the policies of Govs. Brian Kemp of Georgia, Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas, Kristi Noem of South Dakota and other Republican governors. As of May 15, virtually every state that has opened gyms, restaurants and/or hair salons has a Republican governor.

I listened to the Rabbi Sacks presentation, and Dr. Friedman omitted Sacks’ conclusion:

“How you balance the health risks in the long term against the economic damage and the psychological damage in the long term … are based less on clear moral principles as on likely consequences for weighing of alternative maybes and here there is no clear halachic answer. Different countries have taken different policies. Poland and Sweden have been more relaxed than most other countries. Different states in the United States have taken different policies. To judge that we need wisdom because there’s no simple ethical clear-cut answer….”

Finally, there is no evidence to support Dr. Friedman’s claim that “millions of lives” were saved by the lockdown. Such panic-inducing hyperbole is what created this unprecedented lockdown, including the unprecedented quarantine of healthy people. Three groups are primarily responsible for this panic: the media; the left (of which the mainstream media are a part); and scientists, including doctors, and especially epidemiologists. I give doctors heartfelt thanks for their life-saving work. I am walking and out of pain thanks to doctors. But there is no reason to be guided by their advice on social policy. President Harry Truman, a politician and former men’s clothing store owner, not the scientists who made the atom bomb, decided whether to drop the atomic bomb on Japan.

Re: Jeff Katz: 1. Mr. Katz writes: “The virus is the devil here, not the lockdown.” That statement is an example of the sad fact that most people believe what they want to believe. Regarding the world’s economies and massive increase in poverty and hunger, the devil is the lockdown. The 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic killed 100,000 Americans and over 1 million people worldwide. The reason there was no ensuing economic destruction or mass hunger was that there were no national lockdowns. We have destroyed much of the world’s economy and ruined millions of lives even though less than a third the number of people worldwide have died from COVID-19 than from the Hong Kong flu pandemic. If the world had been allowed to function normally today, as it did in 1968-69, while quarantining the most vulnerable, the world’s poorest would not be on the brink of starvation and more than 30 million Americans would not have lost their livelihoods, businesses and savings.

2. Mr. Katz writes: “Why do you think that Oregon has only 109 deaths — the lockdown.”

This is a typical falsehood.

1. As of May 15, Arkansas had the exact same rate of coronavirus deaths as Oregon — 32 per million — and never locked down. As CNN reported on April 12: “Arkansas is one of a handful of GOP-led states that has not issued stay-at-home orders for its residents….”

2. Utah has a far lower rate of coronavirus deaths than Oregon (24 per million), and never locked down.

3. Mr. Katz writes that Sweden had a “partial lockdown.” That statement is either meaningless or false. Other than prohibiting meeting in groups of 50 or more (a considerably higher number than in any other Western country), Sweden allowed eating in cafes (without masks); kept schools, gyms and shopping centers open; and allowed people to travel to work in “nonessential” workplaces.

As for Sweden’s “high price in deaths,” its rate of death, with no lockdown, while higher than its Scandinavian neighbors’, is lower than that of Belgium, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy and France, all of which enacted total lockdowns. And almost half of Sweden’s deaths, like those of almost every other Western country, were in nursing homes. Meanwhile, should there be a “second wave,” Sweden’s population likely will have the highest immunity rate in the Western world. And Swedes will not have the dramatically increased unemployment, bankruptcies, hopelessness, suicides, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and domestic abuse that America and other countries already have.

Re: Michael Janofsky: That’s a deal, Mr. Janofsky. In fact, I will have a notary witness my signing the deal —  provided you and the others who advocate for the lockdown agree to lose your jobs and incomes and health insurance along with 30 million other Americans until their jobs, incomes and health insurance policies return.

Re: Mark Treitel: Mr. Treitel is right about my view of the left. Long ago, I realized that everything the left (not liberals) touches, it ruins. Take the universities. In the words of Steven Pinker, a secular Jew with a doctorate who teaches at Harvard wrote:

“Universities are becoming laughing stocks of intolerance, with non-leftist speakers drowned out by jeering mobs, professors subjected to Stalinesque investigations for unorthodox opinions, risible guidelines on ‘microaggressions’ (such as saying ‘I believe the most qualified person should get the job’), students mobbing and cursing a professor who invited them to discuss Halloween costumes, and much else.”

The left’s impact on music and art has been similarly ruinous: It has made high schools as intellectually and morally empty as colleges; it destroys children’s innocence (bringing 5-year-olds to “Drag Queen Story Hour” is now commonplace); it has done whatever possible to diminish the nuclear family as the ideal social unit; it has ruined journalism; it has infected professional sports; and it has trashed the country Lincoln described as “the last best hope of earth.”

Mr. Treitel writes that I am “blaming the left [for] the lockdown in America and the world” despite the fact that “numerous right-wing authoritarian countries” have locked down their economies.

I actually singled out India for criticism, a country with a right-wing government. I blame the left in America for the continuing lockdown here. It is overwhelmingly leftists who have supported the lockdown well after it was clear that ICUs were not being overrun by coronavirus patients — the originally stated reason for the lockdown. The continuing lockdowns in California, Pennsylvania, Michigan and elsewhere are, literally, criminal.

I also blame the left for shutting down scientists and others who differ with the lockdown, like the video by two California emergency room physicians who oppose the lockdown, which YouTube deleted. From Lenin to YouTube and Google (which owns YouTube) to the universities, the left always has sought to silence opposition.

Try to find videos by doctors supporting the protocol of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and zinc. Those videos also are taken down. The opposition to this often life-saving, always inexpensive, combination with a 50-year history of safety may go down as a dark hour in the history of the American medical establishment, not to mention the governors who banned its use unless the COVID-19 patient was hospitalized, by which time it is usually too late to help.

All the “studies” that allegedly dismiss the effectiveness of this protocol have nothing to do with how the protocol should be administered. None used zinc, and all were given too late.

As for its alleged dangers to health, the drug has been used to fight malaria for 70 years precisely because it is so safe. And lupus sufferers have used it safely for decades, not five days. Furthermore, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Mexico, France, India, Turkey and Bahrain are among the many countries using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.

The American dismissal of hydroxychloroquine is not because of science. It is because of hatred of Donald Trump.


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