Letters: COVID-19 Lockdown, Prager Responds

September 10, 2020

The Lockdown Debate

Habitual hyperbolic entertainer Dennis Prager continues to make shoddy logical analogies. He concludes that the “lockdown has gone from a mistake to a crime.” 

Prager conveniently uses half-baked statistics to prove half-baked ideas to make readers think his points are accurate, deceivingly omitting the real comparative logical evidence. For example, he concludes that the 1968-70 pandemic deaths resulted in the same number of deaths as COVID-19. While he correctly adjusted the two events for population growth, he purposely misled the duration of both pandemics. The 1968-70 pandemic was 18 months (July ’68 to winter ’69-70). The current lockdown has been six months, and the deaths continue unabated every day. If you accurately compare these two time frames, COVID-19 is three times as deadly as the 1968-70 pandemic. And that is with our protective lockdown. How much more deadly would it have been without a lockdown? How many more would be dead because we would have failed to act? Wouldn’t the failure to act be criminal?

Prager habitually states that the world should have followed Sweden’s example and attacks California’s lockdown. However, California has saved more lives that Sweden. Sweden has 11 million people and 5,800 deaths. California has approximately 40 million people and has had 13,700 deaths.

Therefore, directly comparing the two populations, California’s lockdown saved 7,000 more “lives” — more lives per capita than Sweden. Using Prager’s own logic, California is the model to follow, not Sweden.

Prager argues that since airlines can let you eat on a plane, then why were indoor restaurants forced to close? He ignores actual repeated statistical evidence, published by the Center for American Progress, showing that states that reopened indoor dining saw spikes in COVID-19 cases. (See Aug. 7 Washingtonian story by Jane Recker.) 

Prager cites a Reuters article that zero Swedish children died from COVID-19 as proof of Sweden’s methods as gospel. However, the United States, which does have a lockdown, also reports very infrequent child COVID-19 deaths. The American Academy of Pediatrics found children were 0.0-0.3% of all COVID-19 deaths. 

Prager also bulldozes to make the reader think that the economic impact is solely due to government lockdowns. “BEACH Stocks, bookings, entertainment, airlines, cruises and hotels have tumbled. The global airline industry alone has seen $157 billion wiped off valuations across 166 publicly traded airlines.” This loss was due to capitalism, of people not wanting to get COVID-19, not government lockdowns.

I did find it humorous that the irony was lost on Prager in basing his main argument in praising Sweden’s socialized health care system. Has he ever watched his own Prager University videos such as “Socialism Never Works” and “What’s Wrong with Government-Run Healthcare?” As always, he ignores his past statements to make a conclusion to fit his opinion. 

Prager insinuates that it is because of Sweden’s policies that “the virus is over in Sweden.” Does anyone in their right mind believe that had we followed Sweden’s example and not shut down a single business the virus would be over in California or the United States? That no one would have to wear a mask? Prager wants you to conclude that it was the lockdowns themselves that are responsible for all the deaths in California and U.S. That is logically criminal.

When Prager accuses someone of a crime, it means he believes the people responsible should be prosecuted. Like clockwork, he points blame at the “left — the media and Democratic governors and mayors” yet somehow ignores the fact that the shutdowns actually are occurring in numerous states and countries, where the leaders are not “the left.” Does Prager expect anyone to believe that all “right-leaning conservative mayors, governors and world leaders are doing the exact opposite of what California has done?” If so, then why not mention any specific example of where such anti-left policies have worked in any country? It’s called a global pandemic because it’s happening all over the entire world. Prager, of course, knows this but if he didn’t end up blaming the left, we might think that this opinion was ghost-written.
Mark Treitel, Los Angeles

Dennis Prager responds: 

Mark Treitel doesn’t defend the ongoing closure of schools, one of the primary themes of my column. He ignored this point: “The percentage of children who contracted the illness was the same in Sweden as it was in Finland, which locked down its schools.” Doesn’t that argue for not closing schools — both in Finland and the U.S.? Finland already announced it will not close its schools even if the virus returns. Shame on our teachers and teachers unions.

Treitel writes that California, with its lockdowns, has “saved” many more lives than Sweden with its no-lockdown approach. According to NPR, “When the pandemic began, Peru imposed one of the earliest and toughest lockdowns in Latin America. It has now registered more deaths per capita from COVID-19 than almost any other nation” (Aug. 31). And in Sweden, it appears that the pandemic is over. Sweden’s COVID-19 death rate has been at near zero for nearly two months despite the country being open all year and functioning essentially as normal, including not wearing masks.

In response to my question about planes and eating in restaurants, if indoor dining is the reason we saw cases spike, why aren’t we seeing spikes in cases from airplane travel? It also doesn’t account for the numerous states that do allow indoor dining. Why aren’t there COVID-19 spikes in those states?

Most Democratic governors have opened their restaurants. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is an outlier. Treitel says it’s “capitalism,” not the lockdown, that is responsible for the economic damage. Will that be the new argument among American socialists? 

Treitel writes that I want my readers to believe the lockdowns, not the virus, caused all the death. I never wrote nor implied any such thing. A recent Gallup-Templeton poll revealed that:

“On average, Americans believe that people aged 55 and older account for just over half of total COVID-19 deaths; the actual figure is 92%. 

“Americans believe that people aged 44 and younger account for about 30% of total deaths; the actual figure is 2.7%.

“Americans overestimate the risk of death from COVID-19 for people aged 24 and younger by a factor of 50; and they think the risk for people aged 65 and older is half of what it actually is (40% vs. 80%).

“The discrepancy with the actual mortality data is staggering: for people aged 18–24, the share of those worried about serious health consequences is 400 times higher than the share of total COVID deaths; for those aged 25–34 it is 90 times higher.”

I didn’t write a word of praise for the Swedish health care system. I praised the decision Sweden made to keep its schools and economy open. Moreover, the Swedes acknowledge their socialist health care system utterly failed with regard to their elderly. Treitel writes, “California has saved more lives than Sweden.” But so have states that opened up. Regarding Treitel’s question about states without Democratic leaders, there are seven states that never issued stay-at-home orders — all of whom have Republican governors. Their death numbers are as follows: 

Arkansas (30), Iowa (23), Nebraska (38), North Dakota (39), South Dakota (41), Utah (44), Wyoming (49). And according to The Wall Street Journal, as of June 23, “Per-capita Covid fatalities were 75% lower in open states.” 

Regarding continuing lockdowns, Newsom suddenly, without explanation, decided to allow hair salons to reopen the day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was videoed getting her hair done in a California salon. This should make it clear that all Newsom cared about is ruining the economy of the largest state so that President Donald Trump can be blamed for the economic ruin he and other Democratic governors have created. That’s a crime.

Now it’s your turn! Don’t be shy, Letters should be no more than 200 words and must include a valid name and city. The Journal reserves the right to edit all letters. letters@jewishjournal.com.

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