Second Wave Agony: Maybe The State’s Epidemic Policy Is To Blame, Not Its People

Officials scold the public, but a growing chorus of scientists say it’s politicians who are blowing it

On Oct. 24, there were 3,338 new COVID-19 cases in Michigan.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive for the state, responded in a way that has become typical whenever the pandemic deals setbacks: Chide the citizenry for their alleged shortcomings.

In this instance, Khaldun implied that residents were not sufficiently concerned about COVID-19.

“It is now more important than ever that people take this seriously,” Khaldun said in a press release.

The Michigan Health and Hospital Association has also used a badgering tone, as in this warning in an Oct. 22 statement: “If Michigan doesn’t change its approach to this disease, we could have crowded hospital emergency departments and approach exceeding the capacity of our hospitals as we did in Southeast Michigan this past spring.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in an Oct. 25 interview with WDIV, threatened to impose a second statewide lockdown now that a second wave of the pandemic is underway in most states and many nations.

“But we need everyone to do their part so that we can avoid having to take steps backward,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer has, not surprisingly, credited her own policies for any good news involving the pandemic. Less expected has been the governor’s habit of shaming residents for any worsening of the situation.

Yet the recent bad news suggests that current high case counts are not the product of residents’ transgressions. Data is also showing record-high new case counts in every state that borders Michigan. Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin are all seeing record levels of new cases, as is Illinois.

And while case counts have risen in recent weeks, vastly improved treatments have made hospital admissions a fraction of what they were in the spring.

The increase in new COVID-19 cases is not a Michigan-only phenomena, and there is no evidence that broad swaths of the Michigan population reject the extensive restrictions imposed by the state.

Polling data shows that Michigan residents support wearing masks, washing hands and using social distancing.

An October poll of Michigan voters by EPIC-MRA found that 91% agreed with the statement, “Michiganders taking responsibility to wear masks, wash their hands and socially distance would help hospitals fight the virus.”

An October Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans say they “would be highly likely to wear a mask tomorrow if they were out of their house and in an indoor space.”

So it is noteworthy that state officials continue to berate residents for not taking COVID-19 seriously, given that case counts are spiking in nearly every state.

Hoping that early availability of a vaccine would bail them and all of us out of the pandemic, government officials in Michigan and elsewhere adopted a policy of dampening virus transmission by stifling human interactions. The wisdom of this path is now under challenge from a growing cadre of epidemiologists and medical practitioners.

The Great Barrington Declaration, written by leading epidemiologists and endorsed by many more scientists and health experts, advocates against lockdowns and calls for minimizing COVID-induced mortality until herd immunity is reached.

“Sooner or later, herd immunity will be reached either through natural infection or through a combination of vaccinations and natural infection,” the declaration states.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.