Lessons and accountability for harm caused during COVID lockdowns
By Bill Connor
After over two years of detrimental COVID lockdowns and mask mandates, we are starting to see progressives attempting predictable gaslighting over their role. Studies are making clear that most lockdown and mask mandate policies caused more harm than good. With that, progressives are attempting to twist the history of what happened in 2020 and 2021. They are now trying to argue that virtually all Americans were in the dark about the dangers of COVID. A recent article in the uber-progressive Atlantic called for an “amnesty” for these mistakes. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/10/covid-response-forgiveness/671879/. Though encouraging to finally see progressives acknowledge the detrimental effects they wrought, we should demand full acknowledgement of the truth and corresponding accountability. Only then can we move forward. Let me explain.
First, the Atlantic article begins: “There is an emerging consensus that schools in the U.S. were closed for too long. The health risks of in-school spread were relatively low, whereas the costs to students’ well-being and educational progress were high. The latest figures on learning loss are alarming.” The catastrophic cost to students is far worse: “Across the country, math scores saw their largest decreases ever. Reading scores dropped to 1992 levels. Nearly four in 10 eighth graders failed to grasp basic math concepts. Not a single state saw a notable improvement in their average test scores, with some simply treading water at best.” https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/test-scores-dropped-lowest-levels-decades-pandemic-according-nationwid-rcna53659 In fact, U.S. students have suffered historic learning setbacks that will take decades to fix. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-student-test-results-document-pandemics-toll-learning-2022-10-24/.
The next assertion becomes the epitome of progressive gaslighting. Progressives attempt to paint most Americans as equally “uncertain” about what to do about COVID: “But in spring and summer 2020, we had only glimmers of information. Reasonable people advocated on both sides of the reopening debate. Given the amount of uncertainty, almost every position was taken on every topic. And on every topic, someone was eventually proved right, and someone else was proved wrong.” With that narrative of equal ignorance, the author proposes letting it all go: “Let’s acknowledge that we made complicated choices in the face of deep uncertainty, and then try to work together.” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/10/covid-response-forgiveness/671879/ The problem is that progressives distort the most important truth. The progressive left stifled and prevented “every position taken on every topic,” continuously censoring and punishing “dissenting” conservative voices. This caused us to follow the catastrophic progressive policies to do so much damage.
It’s important to note that the progressive damage from lockdowns/mandates went well beyond schools. Millions of Americans experienced the loss of small businesses due to lockdowns. By the middle of 2021, 34 percent of small businesses that had been open in January 2020 (right before lockdowns) were closed. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/05/america-united-states-covid-small-businesses-economics/ With the closure of businesses and lockdowns, substance abuse rose substantially. https://www.rpc.senate.gov/policy-papers/substance-use-has-risen-during-covid-19-pandemic Only a month into lockdowns, sever psychological distress became pervasive. https://jech.bmj.com/content/75/3/224. Importantly, “suicide rates among youth remained elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels into 2021.”
Unlike what progressives are now claiming, many conservative Americans were against lockdowns and mandates from the beginning. President Trump began to warn against lockdowns and demand opening schools in the summer of 2020. “It’s important for all Americans to recognize that a permanent lockdown is not a viable path forward … and would ultimately inflict more harm than it would prevent … we must focus on protecting those at highest risk while allowing younger and healthier Americans to resume work and school with careful precautions. Ideally, we want to open those schools,” Trump said. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/03/trump-says-nationwide-lockdown-would-ultimately-inflict-more-harm-than-it-would-prevent.html Unfortunately, Trump was pilloried by the left for that recommendation and democrat city schools remained closed. Progressive Anthony Fauci stabbed Trump in the back in saying,“states should take a serious examination of where they are in the process of reopening. ‘You may need to pause (reopening) you may need to drop back (from reopening).’” The progressive media praised Fauci for bucking Trump.
National Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called for schools to reopen for fall 2020 for full-time in-person instruction. She went so far to threaten withholding of money to school districts that refused to reopen. DeVos was, therefore, pilloried by the progressive left. Various conservative figures warned of the dangers of what would happen to children if kept out of school, and yet their warnings were slammed by the left as cold heart.
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/education-secretary-faces-backlash-demanding-schools-reopen-full/story?id=71752468 The same type warnings were made by Trump and many other conservative figures regarding business closures. Many conservative Americans were certain that the dangers of COVID-19, particularly to the young, were miniscule compared with the dangers of lockdowns and mandates.
Progressive censorship and persecution of conservatives was horrendous in 2020 and 2021. Many conservatives were vilified by the left for voicing what they believed of COVID and lockdowns/mandates. Most insidious, doctors who did not conform to progressive party lines about COVID were stigmatized and defamed. https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/19/us/doctors-covid-vaccine-misinformation-invs/index.html Even now in 2022, progressive strongholds like California are passing laws that would strip licenses from doctors who engaged in alleged “misinformation.” Astounding, considering that so much “misinformation” (aka against progressive party lines) has become the consensus.
It is time for progressives to acknowledge what really happened during 2020 and 2021. The progressive left needs to acknowledge and apologize for censoring and persecuting conservatives. They stifled truth and we all suffered. We cannot allow amnesty until we are sure this will never happen again.
Bill Connor is a 1990 Citadel graduate, 30-year Army infantry colonel (ret.) and combat veteran. He is a writer and attorney and lives in the Charleston area.