Well, just when we thought we were gonna put COVID in the rear view mirror, along comes another mutation. This one’s called the Omicron mutation. Well, it started in South Africa and the response this time was very, very rapid, but it was based on very, very little data.
Let me give you a sense of the amount of the response. The new governor of New York, Governor Hochul declared a state of emergency literally the day after it was first announced that we were going to have a problem. And at that point we had fewer than 20 cases worldwide. The stock market tumbled on the news, Dr. Fauci was out there warning that we have to face this one strongly. Well, I’m all for following the science, but science is based on data and not on hunches. And even now we have very, very little data to really assess it.
The number of cases as we’re recording, this is still in the hundreds. It may go into the thousands, but that’s on a planet with 7 billion people. And when you have numbers that small, it’s very hard to get any really good scientific statistical conclusions, but nonetheless, we are jumping forward.
So although we’re doing a lot, the question is, are we going to make the same mistakes we’ve made before you, you might remember, for example, that by going into a lockdown, we were going to crush the virus. That was the magic word. Then we were going to flatten the curve. That was another case. Well, we’ve had a number of lockdowns everywhere in the world. It hasn’t been crushed. The curve may have been flattened, meaning it was spread out over a longer period of time, but believe it or not, we had more deaths from COVID in 2021 than we did in 2020. And that’s with a vaccine circulating.
So we are in the middle of a never ending race with COVID mutations. And this is the way science really works. Viruses mutate. That’s how they survive. The flu virus for example, is around every single year by mutating. There is a somewhat different one each year. Well, the thing we tried this time was lockdowns keeping everyone in their homes. So they wouldn’t spread the virus. I suppose there’s some plausibility to it, but let’s face it. Lockdowns didn’t work.
And now Europe is trying another round of lockdowns. The world health organization warned Europe that they could face half a million deaths this winter without desperate measures. So we’ve had lockdowns announced in a number of European countries, the biggest one being Austria, and… which, now by the way, has a total lockdown in place. And they’re going to make vaccination mandatory, starting on February one, or you go to jail.
So they’re really being serious, right? But have lockdowns really worked? This is gonna be Austria’s fourth lockdown, believe it or not. But it doesn’t seem to have made much difference. For example, Sweden had no lockdowns, virtually no restrictions. They didn’t even push masks very hard. They did get vaccinated the same as everyone did, and vaccination is a good idea, but the difference between say, Austria and other countries with lots of lockdowns and Sweden, which just did business as usual is really, really small. For example, here in Sweden, only 11 and a half percent of the people got sick. But on the other hand, you had 12% of the people in Austria get sick and 11.8% of the people in France get sick. Essentially the same share of the population, even though you had lockdowns in France and Austria and no lockdowns in Sweden. Same thing’s true with the death rate.
The death rate in Sweden is about one person in a thousand. It’s no different in Austria and other countries with that did have lockdowns… about one in a thousand.
Same story in the U.S. We’ve had very different degrees of lockdowns in the U.S, depending on what state it was. Florida and Tennessee notoriously have not had lockdowns. They’ve been quite open, yet Florida and Tennessee have significantly lower death rates than New Jersey did from COVID. So there is no statistical evidence that locking down your economy does any good at all in terms of reducing either the number of cases or the number of deaths.
Well, that is half the story, meaning not much benefit, but there’s also enormous costs. You know, we had a big recession last year because of the lockdowns, but perhaps more important, lockdowns had other effects.
We’ve had a huge drop in the proficiency of students in school because we closed the schools and went to schooling at home. And the biggest drop was for the children who need the most help. They fell almost half a grade level as a result of the closing of schools as part of the lockdown. We also have record of physical and health problems. The mental health industry has traditionally opposed lockdowns because what it does to our psyche. To be honest, lockdowns aren’t going to work. They really never have worked. That’s the way viruses are unfortunately, and this is bad news. The only way lockdowns end is by acquiring herd immunity. That’s either by people having it or by artificial immunity via vaccines.
We should be close to herd immunity now, but we must not be. And by the way, the new variant breaks through the immunities we have. So we’re gonna be living with COVID for a long time. Same problem. Let’s try a different solution. After all the saying goes, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.