OPINION: Why the lockdown may be doing more harm than good

Ross McDonnell Opinion writer

First things first: the coronavirus is absolutely a real virus that can be deadly.  You will never hear me try to say it’s not. Second, you will not read anything in this particular column imploring you to vote for one candidate or another. The 2020 election is something I absolutely have strong opinions on, but those opinions are not the point that I am trying to make to you today. Today, I am going to layout for you the reasons why — in my opinion — the benefits of having the option to return to a normal life would, for the majority of people, outweigh the risks.

I had a (virtual) conversation recently with a member of the Kent State staff who I always enjoy talking to and exchanging ideas with, even if we almost never agree. We talked about a number of issues ranging from bias in the media to what courses should or should not be a part of different college majors, but the issue we discussed the most proved to be the coronavirus and the continued lockdown in response to its appearance in the U.S. earlier this year.

The majority of the time we were both smiling, laughing and generally having a good time, but then we got to scheduling (or not scheduling) my classes for next semester, which is what brought up the issue of the lockdown. At that point, I had shifted out of politics mode and shifted into more of a “doing what we have to do” mode; I didn’t expect after 20 minutes of political discussion in good spirits that my frustrations about being forced to put our lives on hold would be seen as inflammatory, but as I soon learned, many more people see this lockdown as a political issue than I had previously realized.

As I’ve said before, you are allowed to believe whatever it is that you want to believe, but here are some reasons as to why I believe an extended lockdown will cause (and as a matter of fact, is already causing) more harm than the virus itself.

First and foremost, humans are social creatures. Just as we need food and water for physical health, we need other humans for our mental health. Whether you’re the most social person in America, who’s constantly going out, or someone who is not necessarily the most socially active person all the time, and doesn’t have three million close friends, having to be away from others for an extended period of time is a major mental health risk. Building off of that, young and middle-aged people are much more likely to die from mental health issues than any illness.

I know of people who have been denied entry into the emergency room for mental health issues because the doctors feared those patients would contract the coronavirus, and the CDC confirmed as far back as June that suicidal ideation had skyrocketed due to the lockdown, and now we know suicide rates themselves have also increased. As important as it is to listen to medical doctors on physical health issues, it is also important to listen to mental health doctors on mental health issues, and many psychological experts had been predicting disastrous consequences — including the many suicides that otherwise would not have happened — to a prolonged lockdown since it began in March.

Second, the economic consequences of the shutdown have been disastrous for middle-class and working-class Americans and small business owners. As inconvenient a truth as it is, and as strange as it may seem to talk about the economy when public health is at issue, the economy is real. It exists. It naturally formed as a way for humans to acquire goods and services, and therefore, survive. Even bartering, before the existence of what we would now call “currency,” was a type of economy; in fact, a “barter economy.” That being said, the existence of an “economy” is an entirely different column, so back to my point.

As much as it would be desirable to simply “put life on hold” for any amount of time in a crisis, such a thing is not an option. We still need food to eat and water to drink (many people involved in refreshments are known as “essential workers”) but we also need ways to obtain the necessary resources to acquire those things. If a bar owner has a spouse and three children, and his bar is their sole source of income, then his job is just as essential to them as any other job is to anyone else. Perhaps a student works at a miniature golf course to put themselves through college. With the shutdown, that person is not only out of a job, but unable to attend school.

With regard to the coronavirus itself, it seems to be following — shockingly — the same pattern that almost all viruses follow: it is becoming considerably less deadly over time. Why is this the case with almost every major virus? It’s actually fairly simple. A deadlier virus ravages the body quicker and therefore does not have nearly as much time to spread to others. To be able to infect as many people as COVID-19 has, it had to mutate into much milder strains. This is not something new to this coronavirus but is a common pattern among any similar illness. The death rate, while still higher than the flu or a common cold, has in recent months become microscopic amongst those who were not already at-risk.

Again, this article argues in favor of people having the option to go back to life as usual. If some people would like to play extra safe and wait for the virus to completely either go away or be eradicated by the vaccine, that is your choice. I will say my 81-year-old grandfather does not let the virus hold him back. He was the one who convinced me to support a return to normal life. His rationale?

“You know, Ross, if I lock myself down for five years and then die, what’s the point?”

“You wouldn’t have been living anyways?”

“I wouldn’t have been living anyways.”

Ross McDonnell is an opinion writer. Contact him at [email protected]. 


Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.