With Sweden's new lower COVID death rate, was lockdown the right choice for America?


Fact Box

Bill (No)

In retrospect, a lockdown was not the right choice for America. The lockdown was a panicked response based on worst-case scenario projections of daily deaths and new infections that turned out to be wildly exaggerated (by a factor of 3x to 9x off). The public health guidance continually hyped by the media has been confusing at best and contradictory and misleading at worst. The initial goal of locking down to 'flatten the curve' or 'slow the spread' of the virus (to enable existing health care capacity to absorb the increased demand) has had devastating unintended consequences, such as shuttering business everywhere when governments extended the measure past six months. Restaurants and other small businesses have succumbed to the restrictive executive orders of state and local governments, who have dictated outright closure of some types of businesses or severely restricting others' capacity.

Aside from the onerous economic impact of job losses and small business closures, the education infrastructure has been turned upside down as well. School closures necessitated distance learning and homeschooling, which has had a disproportionately negative impact on low-income households. Many of them are either ill-equipped to support homeschooling, due to lack of educational resources, or can't flexibly work and stay at home to provide the teaching their children need has become a real issue. In addition to the stunted educational growth that this new reality means for school-age children, there is also the social and emotional costs of isolation. For all the reasons cited above (and many others), the lockdown is the complete wrong answer for many Americans.

Andrew (Yes)

While it may be tempting for some in the United States to point to the Swedish approach to COVID-19 management, Sweden and America are not comparable in regards to healthcare access. A much higher percentage of the Swedish population has access to healthcare than in America, meaning that more of those becoming ill have access to treatment. Sweden has more hospital beds per person and is ranked significantly higher than the United States in both cost and quality of healthcare. Sweden spends much more on preventative care, resulting in significantly lower obesity rates, heart and lung disease, and many of the other chronic conditions that caused deaths with COVID-19 in America. Fewer chronic conditions mean the disease has posed less of a threat to Swedes.

The United States has a greater population density than Sweden, with approximately eleven more people per square mile, a significant factor for reducing the disease's community spread. The full extent of damage from the disease to those who recover or asymptomatic is still unknown, with many patients experiencing a worsened quality of life months after recovery. Doctors have found cases of myocarditis and lung damage long after recovery. Preventing these health issues is every bit as important as keeping the death rate down. Comparisons between the United States and Sweden are risky at best as the two nations have drastically different healthcare systems and different populations, each with unique health trends. Much is still unknown about the disease, and reducing community spread by locking down the nation remains the most effective policy for the United States.

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