Friday April 9, 2021
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic governments across the world implemented an unprecedented and untested strategy to slow the spread of the disease. Colloquially known as lockdowns, these public health interventions effectively shut down most normal societal functions through the use of stay-at-home orders, school closures, business closures, bans on large gatherings, and travel restrictions. This policy apparatus effectively relegated the vast majority of people to a form of self-quarantine and completely upended the standard social functioning of society. Although these measures were advertised in the United States as a short-term measure, the now infamous two weeks to flatten the curve policy to shut down societal functions to control the spread of Covid-19 dragged on for over a year.
The damage to society was certainly extensive, with a 3.5 percent annualized economic retraction record in 2020 and a 32.9 percent decline in Q2 of 2020, making this one of the sharpest economic declines in modern history. However, the level of suffering and trauma caused by these policies cannot be appropriately expressed by economic data alone.
Lockdown policies may have caused a substantial amount of financial damage but the social damage is just as concerning, if not more so. Across the board, there have been increased reports of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, that are linked to social isolation, substantial life disruptions, and existential dread over the state of the world. Unlike lost dollars, mental health problems leave real and lasting damage which could lead to complications later in life, if not self-harm or suicide. For young people, a drastic increase in suicides has claimed more lives than Covid-19. That is because they are far less vulnerable to Covid than older segments of the population but far more negatively impacted by lockdowns.