For weeks, I have been trying to say that the coronavirus lockdowns are going to kill people as surely as the coronavirus itself. It is facially obvious to anyone with even the most minimal amount of foresight that economic devastation costs lives. Most likely, a lot of lives.
Yet still, during this entire crisis, anyone who has suggested that the economy ought to be reopened at any point prior to making sure that COVID-19 is completely eradicated (which may never happen) is treated as placing money over grandma's life. Governors such as Georgia's Brian Kemp and Texas' Greg Abbott have faced an uninterrupted wall of criticism and tsk-tsking from the media who have all but declared that Republicans value money over lives.
So while this article from CNN might seem like a small thing, it's actually a bit of a big deal. The premise of the article is that a mental health advocacy group called Well Being Trust estimates that as many as 75,000 Americans could die "deaths of despair" as a result of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus lockdowns. I am sure this is not literally the first time that a major media outlet has acknowledged that the lockdowns are going to kill people, too — but it's the first time I've seen it, and it's safe to say that I consume way more news than the average American.
Of course, the 75,000 estimate is likely far too low. As I've noted before, "deaths of despair" like suicide are only a small part of the probable death toll that will be caused by the shutdowns. Deaths and/or lost lifespan due to poor nutrition and inability to afford other medical treatment are likely to dwarf the suicide numbers. And that is to say nothing of the people who are already dying and will die in the immediate future because other very real medical needs like biopsies and outpatient procedures are not being performed.
It's a small step, but it's a major one. The public, by and large, is still opposed to reopening this country. Polling has consistently shown it, as we have reported on this website. The main reason for that is that they have been fed a line that there is a magical world where if we just suffer a lot of economic consequences, no one has to die.
Unfortunately, such a world does not exist. And before we can chart a way back that will actually save more lives than it costs, people have to realize that continuing on the path we are on will also kill people. A lot of people. And their lives don't matter any less than people who might otherwise die of the coronavirus. And until we come face-to-face with that fact, we will continue down a public policy course that will likely end up killing more people than it saves.