I was pro-lockdown for NYC — but now there’s no excuse for continuing it

What are we doing?

Living in New York City continues to feel like we’re in the Upside Down. Our COVID-19 positive rates are astonishingly low. Yet attractions, businesses and schools remain shuttered. If we knew in March that the lockdown would mean months ­before businesses got to reopen and longer than that until schools opened for in-person learning, would we have gone along?

I wouldn’t have. In March, I was at the forefront of calls to close schools. We needed to flatten the curves. We needed to stop the hospitals from getting overwhelmed. Those were worthwhile goals. What are the goals now? It’s insane to keep children locked down without a goal.

And the insanity doesn’t end there. Last week, Gov. Cuomo announced that finally restaurants in Gotham could reopen for indoor dining — but at an absurd 25 percent capacity. A friend with a 19-seat Brooklyn joint pointed out she could host 4.75 people.

The rest of the state has been open for indoor dining throughout the summer at 50 percent capacity, yet we didn’t experience any spikes in cases. Why is Cuo­mo punishing Big Apple restaurateurs and workers?

The irrationality is the most ­infuriating part. A few days ago, an announcement was made that public high schools in New York are canceling their football, volleyball and cheerleading fall seasons. But tennis, soccer and field hockey are somehow allowed. Huh? That’s so arbitrary.

I tried to not be overly bitter last week, as photos of my friends’ kids returning to real schools filled my Facebook feed.

They weren’t going back to school in far-off places. Plenty were returning to full-time, in-person schooling at public schools in nearby Long ­Island and private ones in Manhattan. My own kids won’t go back to any schooling until later this week, when city public schools will ­finally start — remotely.

Do private-school and suburban parents want teachers and kids to die? No. All have weighed the risks and benefits, taken the necessary precautions and decided that it’s ­unhealthier to remove kids from live education long term.

New York City schools are supposed to be returning to part-time in-person learning on Sept. 21. But few parents believe it will actually happen, mostly due to the total incompetence of everyone in charge of the reopening, the mixed messages from the top — and the cravenness of teachers unions.

During routine COVID-19 testing last week, two asymptomatic teachers tested positive in Brooklyn. The schools where they teach will now be delayed in opening. Did no one who makes policy foresee that we would have positive cases going forward? Is the plan simply to shut down schools every time there is a positive case? And are we doing that until COVID-19 disappears?

We didn’t sign up to stay home indefinitely.

I’m not an epidemiologist and I will largely follow what actual medical professionals direct us to do. But few epidemiologists are urging a continued lockdown to defeat COVID-19.

Writing in The New York Times in April, Gabriel Leung, an infectious-disease epidemiologist and dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, wrote that lockdowns can’t last forever “with­out causing enormous damage to economies and compromising peoples’ goodwill and emotional well-being.”

But more important, Leung noted, “containment has failed everywhere.” As we’ve seen spikes in countries like Australia and South Korea, previously considered “model” countries that handled the virus very well, that’s more important to remember than ever. We can’t defeat COVID-19 by continually shutting down.

I’ve taken COVID-19 seriously, both in this column and in my own family. But the strategy for New York simply makes no sense anymore. We need a longer-term direction for our city and state, and that direction should be based on science. Real science — not “science” wielded as a rhetorical cudgel by Cuomo and de Blasio.

We can’t continue in this fearfulness with a vague plan to wait out the virus while society collapses around us. Our elected officials need to offer rational guidance, or New Yorkers need to fight them. We’ve been complacent for long enough.

New York Post

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