Former President Donald Trump earned mixed reviews early on in the COVID-19 pandemic for decrying harsh lockdowns and other restrictions, frequently declaring that the “cure can’t be worse than the disease.”
In retrospect, the evidence appears to vindicate him as it becomes increasingly obvious that the economic and societal impacts of nationwide lockdowns are causing untold long-term damage.
“Affected in other ways”
Trump and other critics of strict COVID-19 mitigation measures pointed to so-called “deaths of despair,” which studies show tend to tick upward during times of economic strife.
Such deaths are commonly caused by suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence.
Although many on the left downplayed those concerns, subsequent studies show that these preventable deaths have risen above normal levels since the outbreak of the pandemic virus.
In December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study showing that the number of deaths caused by drug overdoses had spiked substantially in the 12-month period ending in May 2020. The final months of that year, which coincided with the initial phase of widespread lockdowns and business closures, saw the most pronounced acceleration.
Robert Redfield, who served as CDC director at the time, wrote: “The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance abuse disorder hard. As we continue the fight to end this pandemic, it’s important not to lose sight of different groups being affected in other ways.”
“Deaths due to despair”
He went on to urge experts to “take care of people suffering from unintended consequences” of the pandemic.
A broader surge in “excess deaths” not caused by the virus among generally healthy and young adults was also evident in CDC data. According to a Daily Wire article published in October, the number of these deaths shot up by 26.5%, with the cause often attributed to “despair.”
Former Food and Drug Administration Director Scott Gottlieb said at the time that he “would suspect that a good portion of the deaths in that younger cohort were deaths due to despair, due to other reasons,” pointing to “a spike in overdoses” that could be attributed to living through a pandemic.
In June 2020, USA Today reported on a spike in calls to suicide hotlines in the early months of widespread lockdowns.
Aside from the preventable deaths, the societal toll of COVID-19 lockdowns also extends to a lost year of education and development for school-age children across the nation. Although his foes and fans alike hoped that he would be proven wrong, Trump might have been correct all along that the “cure” for COVID-19 would be worse than the virus itself.