The Convenient Compassion of Politicians

For nearly a year, since the COVID outbreak began, the proponents of lockdowns have been unwavering in their resolve. No matter what new data or information is discovered throughout the course of this pandemic, their tune hasn’t changed. “Stay home, save lives” has been their motto, regardless of the severity of cases or deaths in any particular region. They’ve even gone so far as to suggest that cities and states who don’t take equally draconian steps have the blood of thousands on their hands. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested this in July as he blamed rising infection rates on the reopening policies of states like Texas and Florida.

“The Wall Street Journal, New York Post—they continue to beat a horse that is dead: ‘We should reopen the economy faster in New York,’ ‘The infection rate is low; re-open faster,” he complained during a press conference. “Florida listened to the New York Post. Texas listened to the Wall Street Journal. Arizona listened to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. That was wrong.”

Largely across the board, Cuomo has been seen as a hero and a leader in his handling of the pandemic, even receiving an Emmy (for some odd reason). Dr. Fauci pointed to New York as the model state for dealing with COVID-19, despite how high cases and deaths were in the early days of the pandemic in the state. As of January 2021, infection rates have surpassed even those dark days in the beginning. On January 8, confirmed new cases hit a high of 19,560, the most New York had ever experienced in a single day. Strangely enough, despite this surge, Cuomo has changed his tune when talking about the lockdowns.

During his State of the State address, he discussed his renewed position on lockdowns, stating “We simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely.”

Now, after months of suggesting that Thanksgiving dinners will kill Grandma and arresting people who don’t comply, the Governor finally admits the reality that lockdowns might be producing more harm than good.

He isn’t the only one, either. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a Stay at Home order in November ahead of Thanksgiving amid surging COVID cases. Yet on January 14, nearly two months later, Mayor Lightfoot confirmed that COVID restrictions must be lifted “as quickly as possible” in Chicago.

Furthermore, Mayor Lightfoot goes so far as to even acknowledge the paradoxical nature of lockdowns. “If we have people and give them an outlet for entertainment in the restaurant space, in the bar space, we have much more of an opportunity in my view to be able to regulate and control that environment. Let’s bring it out of the shadows. Let’s allow them to have some recreation in restaurants, in bars, where we can actually work with responsible owners and managers to regulate and protect people from COVID-19.”

The sudden shift in attitude among certain mayors and governors toward ending the lockdowns certainly seem out of character. One could attribute the emergence of a vaccine toward this about face in policy. It likely contributes to it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it runs against everything they have been telling the public over the past year. A vaccine is in no position yet to be readily available for anyone who wants it. As mentioned, Cuomo goes so far as to admit that his goal is not to wait until the vaccine “hits critical mass.”

They suddenly don’t seem to mind the risk that is required in maintaining the health of the economy. It is particularly suspicious that these stated policy reversals come only a week before the inauguration of Joe Biden as President of the United States. Whatever the reason may be for their change of pace, don’t mistake it for a genuine change of heart.

For months, critics of the lockdowns have been warning of the dangers and the risk associated with them. For many, the impact is irreparable, as thousands of businesses have shut down, substance abuse is now rampant, and suicides have reached depressingly high levels. Rather than acknowledge these dangers, lockdown proponents have reverted to bad faith arguments. They’ve suggested that anyone who wishes to reopen the economy and get people back to work are heartless and wish to sacrifice Grandma for a higher stock market.

While some of these claims may have seemed reasonable in the early days of the pandemic, the months of data since then concretely demonstrate that there is absolutely no correlation between lockdowns and declining infection rates. Despite all the disastrous ways that the lockdowns have not only been ineffective, but also needlessly cruel, don’t expect an apology or sincere reversal of policy from those who implemented them.

In the coming months, as economies (hopefully) begin to fully reopen, mayors and governors will begin to rewrite their own history on the issue. They will want you to see them as the leaders who benevolently saved you, not only from the virus, but also from economic destruction. As many of them prepare for reelection in 2022, they want to have the image of savior, not destroyer. Much like the decisions they made during the height of the lockdowns, this will only be done in order to preserve and expand their own power. Do not be fooled by their faux and convenient sudden compassion for those who lost their livelihoods in 2020.

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