At the beginning of the pandemic, back in spring 2020, I talked with several public health experts and public officials about the limitations of lockdowns and closures as a method of preventing viral spread. I pointed out that fear causes people to take fewer precautions and historically lockdowns have not worked well because panicked people may disregard restrictions, spreading more of the virus.
Several of these same experts and officials, though acknowledging my concerns at the time, went on to back a policy of lockdowns and closures across the U.S. that not only didn’t effectively control viral spread for more than a few months but also helped foster economic disaster, a mental health pandemic and delays in health screenings and other medical care. There was also a big negative impact on learning and socialization in schools across the country that went fully remote.
This was clearly not the famous business and school closures instituted in St. Louis, Mo., by health commissioner Dr. Max Starkloff, which did slow the spread of the 1918 Spanish Flu’s notorious second wave. It turned out that flu models did not apply readily to COVID, which spread much more easily than flu.