(p. A19) California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the first statewide U.S. stay-at-home order on March 19, 2020. All U.S. states and most other countries have long since abandoned lockdowns as oppressive, ineffective and exorbitantly expensive. But why did free countries adopt such a strategy to begin with?
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Stay-at-home orders weren’t part of the script in pre-Covid federal pandemic plans. The idea of “flattening the curve” through what are known as “layered non-pharmaceutical interventions” can be traced to an influential 2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance paper, updated in 2017. Contemplating a severe pandemic with a 2% case fatality rate, the CDC recommended now-familiar strategies, such as masking, surface disinfection and temporary school closings.
Yet aside from suggesting limits on mass gatherings, the CDC paper makes no mention of closing workplaces. Instead, it concludes that such a severe pandemic could warrant recommending that employers “offer telecommuting and replace in-person meetings in the workplace with video or telephone conferences.” The closest it comes to lockdowns is recommending “voluntary home quarantine” for people with an infected family member.
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When Western nations were confronted with Covid-19, they seemed to believe the Communist Party’s unproven claims about the efficacy of lockdowns. In the end, every other country got some variant of the virus and some variant of China’s official response. The world has learned to live with the former, as politically accountable leaders found they couldn’t maintain draconian restrictions forever. The people of China will be forced to endure the latter indefinitely.
For the full commentary, see:
Eugene Kontorovich and Anastasia Lin. “Covid Lockdowns Were a Chinese Import.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, March 24, 2022): A19.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 23, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)