COVID lockdowns may have done more harm than good

Timothy Carney
Conservative Opinion

Timothy Carney

Timothy Carney, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
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The mantra during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic was “stay home, save lives.” But with two years of evidence and observation, it may be time to assess whether the lockdowns did more to hurt people than help them. There is growing evidence that children were especially harmed from being deprived of daily contact with friends and classmates. Studies show some kids were stranded developmentally by lockdowns, experienced depression and anxiety, and even had their immune systems weakened by the isolation. Straight Arrow News contributor Tim Carney says the evidence clearly shows the stay-at-home orders deprived many of the human interaction that we all need to be happy and healthy.

Whether the lockdowns or stay at home orders saved many lives is up for debate but the forced isolation and heightened alienation definitely cost lives. Specifically, children died because of lockdowns in 2020. The number of drug and alcohol deaths for Americans under age 18 was double the average from the 2010s and 2021. Childhood drug and alcohol deaths stayed at that high level. This is sadly not surprising. Depression and anxiety rates among teenagers have hit record levels in the last two years.

And is it any wonder that kids found life more daunting that when deprived of friends, sports classmates and activities, and forced to spend even more hours a day staring at a screen, kids found life more disheartening.

Murders also spiked across the country in 2020 and 2021. Why? Isolation made people more antisocial. Those who have mental health issues and coming from broken homes became untethered when they lost community interactions. The supermarket shooter in Buffalo was radicalized online. During the lockdowns the Uvalde, Texas school shooter never really returned to school after the 2020 closures according to reports. This was predictable. The Department of Homeland Security warned in late 2020 that social isolation is one of the “risk factors that may make an individual more susceptible to radicalizing to violence.” A lack of connection leads to “fear of others.”

Children may have been more affected than anyone else, but everyone was harmed by the policy decisions that isolated individuals from neighbors, friends, counselors and pastors. Opioid overdose deaths went up nearly 50% in Washington, DC and Virginia in 2020. Even cigarette sales increased in 2020 by nearly a billion, the first increase in 20 years. 

Then there are the other health costs. Almost 22 million children around the world missed their measles vaccine in 2020, the highest number since 2008. Obesity is on the rise as more and more children are sedentary.

So when we talk about the cost of the pandemic, we need to be clear: The virus itself was incredibly harmful killing millions worldwide and leaving many children without a parent. But the government responses to the virus also caused harm.

People need other people, people need to belong to things. When you take away that sort of connection and belonging, bad things happen and people die.

Before gun control was the official cause of the day before Ukraine flags were everywhere before the vaccine became a source of identity and before the mask was religious garb. The cause celebre in the media and online was a lockdowns stay home save lives blared a million front yard signs Facebook profile pics and Twitter names. 

The idea was that if we kept the schools closed, canceled all summer camps, close the playgrounds, locked up the basketball courts, called off the Little League season. Busted kids who got together for social gatherings closed all community gathering, places shamed folks who walked up and down the boardwalk band concerts, shuttered churches and generally discouraged all human interaction outside the household, the virus would go away. 

The virus didn’t go away.

Whether the lockdowns or stay at home orders saved many lives is up for debate. But the force isolation and heightened alienation definitely cost lives. Specifically, children died because of lockdowns in 2020. The number of drug and alcohol deaths for Americans under age 18 was double the average from the 2000 10s and 2021. Childhood drug and alcohol deaths stayed at that high level. This is sadly not surprising. depression and anxiety rates among teenagers have hit record levels in the last two years.

And is it any wonder that kids found life more daunting that when deprived of friends, sports classmates and activities, and forced to spend even more hours a day staring at a screen, kids found life more disheartening.

Murderers also spiked across the country in 2020 and 2021. Why? Isolation made people more antisocial. Those who have mental health issues are coming from broken homes became untethered when they lost community interactions. The supermarket shooter in Buffalo was radicalized online. During the lockdowns the Uvalde Texas school shooter never really returned to school after the 2020 closures According to reports, this was predictable. The Department of Homeland Security warned in late 2020 That social isolation is one of the quote, risk factors that may make an individual more susceptible to radicalizing to violence. A lack of connection leads to quote, fear of others. 

Homeland Security warned in a memo, children may have been more affected than anyone else. But everyone was harmed by the policy decisions that isolated individuals from neighbors, friends, counselors and pastors. Opioid overdose deaths went up nearly 50% in Washington, DC and Virginia in 2020. Even cigarette sales increase in 2020 by nearly a billion the first increase in 20 years. 

Then there are the other health costs. almost 22 million children around the world missed their measles vaccine in 2020, the highest number since 2008. Obesity is on the rise as more and more children are sedentary.

So when we talk about the cost of the pandemic, we need to be clear, the virus itself was incredibly harmful killing millions worldwide and leaving many children without a parent. But the government responses to the virus also caused harm.

People need other people, people need to belong to things. When you take away that sort of connection and belonging. Bad things happen and people die.


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