Our Insidious New Normal

Four months into our national coronavirus hysteria, the media’s appetite for scare-graphs, doomsday headlines, and wild predictions of death and destruction continues unabated. The people themselves, however, are a different matter. Silently, across the country, everyday citizens are beginning to realize that the mask mandates, lockdowns, and school closures come at a profound cost.

On a recent cross-country relocation trip, I had the opportunity to speak  with dozens of strangers, friends, and family from all walks of life and hear their views of the current crisis. The vast majority of these people couldn’t name anyone they knew who had died from the illness. Most of them didn’t even know anyone who was hospitalized. 

But all of them knew of someone who has lost a job.

In Michigan, I struck up a conversation with a construction worker filling potholes I’ll call Bill. Bill is in his 50s and has been working for the city for decades. The state has already blown through its budget for the year and he’s not certain how they’re going to keep paying for road repairs. The city already took his time-in-service bonus and now he’s certain they’re freezing any other pay raises indefinitely. 

Bill has two adopted sons he and his wife took in when their neighbor committed suicide. The oldest is in kindergarten, but the family couldn’t afford to buy a computer camera for him to do his Zoom classes. Instead, the boy’s teacher sent the family assignments by mail.

In Kansas, my great-grandmother’s sisters, both in their 90s, live in the same nursing home. For more than a month, the two of them were barred from any external face-to-face contact. They could not even visit with one another.

In New York, a friend’s grandmother allegedly died of the coronavirus. She was in her 90s, had serious dementia, and lived in a nursing facility. She died alone. 

In San Diego, a hospitality worker I’ll call Rick told me he had been making really good money at the start of the year. 2020 was supposed to be record-breaking for his resort. When the lockdown hit, he was laid off without any severance pay despite nine years of service. The hotel later rehired him—at half his previous wages. He was supposed to take his girlfriend to Hawaii in April to propose. They were planning on starting a family this year, too. All of that is on hold as they search for more stable work. They aren’t alone. Some social scientists estimate that we will see 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births this year due to the lockdowns and economic uncertainty.

In California, an emergency room nurse told me that during the lockdown he watched as his emergency room saw admissions plummet by 50 percent while the cases they did treat increased in severity. In other words, patients were evidently so freaked out by the media circus that they refused to seek treatment for non-COVID-related conditions until far too late. He told of one man who had stroke symptoms for a week but was just too afraid to come in. The damage, if it had been caught early enough, would have been reversible. 

This nurse’s hospital is on a massive coronavirus testing push. Every patient, regardless of symptoms, has to be tested. The nurse told me of one elderly patient that was swabbed while in cardiac arrest and receiving CPR. The man passed away. He had serious underlying health problems, was having a heart attack, exhibited no respiratory symptoms, but the test came back positive. Cha-ching! A COVID-19 death.

In Arizona, a young college student told me he lost his summer job when Governor Doug Ducey locked down the state for a second time. The camp he worked for got a PPP loan, but they can’t pay it out because they’re not allowed to stay open. Will there be classes in the fall? Sports? Parties? No idea. Life is on pause. Aimlessness replaces activity.

Canceled sports seasons, weddings, and trips. Lost jobs, wages, and opportunities. Lonely deaths and Zoom funerals. Americans across the country are suffering from the draconian and interminable response to Coronavirus. And yet for millions, the virus exists only as a graph on the nightly news.

For them, the pandemic is an abstraction. The response is not.

So far, 135,000 Americans have died from COVID-19—allegedly. That is a minuscule portion of the total population: roughly .04 percent. What percentage of these actually had respiratory symptoms or died from other causes is unclear. What is clear is that America saw a short-lived and moderate spike in excess deaths in April. The normal average of 58,000 deaths per week in April jumped to 78,000 before rapidly restabilizing in mid-May. 

It isn’t clear that the lockdowns or mask mandates actually saved any lives. Sweden, which never locked down, followed a similar trajectory of excess deaths as the rest of the West. Perhaps nature is merely mocking our efforts. It would not be the first time.

Regardless, in a country where 3 million people die every year, 130,000 deaths is not an apocalypse. Would the average American have noticed a 4 percent change in overall mortality without media fanfare? Probably not. 

At present, the country is in limbo. When does all this end? When we have a vaccine? When there are zero deaths? If so, this “pandemic” could last for years

Already, elementary, high school, and college campuses across the country are refusing to fully reopen in the fall. Those that will are requiring draconian restrictions on the movement and behavior of their students. None of these policies are grounded in science. Few, if any, have been put to a vote. 

Everyday people suffer regardless. Our “new normal” is an abomination. It is fundamentally anti-social, inhuman, and imposed without our consent. It warehouses the elderly and enervates the young. It wrecks romance, instills fear, and alienates communities. This kind of life isn’t new and it isn’t normal. We had a name for it in the past: tyranny. It cannot be allowed to last. Our liberty and livelihoods depend on it. 

About Josiah Lippincott

Josiah Lippincott is a former Marine officer and current Master's student at the Van Andel School of Statesmanship at Hillsdale College.

Photo: Getty Images

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