May 17, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Navarro claims lockdowns will kill "many more" Americans than coronavirus

White House economic adviser Peter Navarro claimed on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus will "indirectly" kill more people than the virus itself.

Why it matters: President Trump and some of his political and economic advisers have been pushing aggressively to reopen parts of the U.S. economy, even as public health experts like Anthony Fauci warn that it could lead to a resurgence in cases and ultimately more deaths.

  • Lockdowns have disrupted key medical procedures and screenings that are unrelated to the coronavirus and have been deemed "nonessential." This includes cancer screenings.
  • Social distancing and the economic devastation caused by the virus have also undoubtedly taken a toll on Americans' mental health. But Navarro did not provide specific evidence for his claim that these side effects will prove more deadly than the virus, which has killed nearly 90,000 people in the U.S.

What he's saying: "The fact of the matter is, and what President Trump realized early on, is that if you lock people down, you may save lives directly from the China virus [coronavirus]. But you indirectly, you're going to kill a lot more people," Navarro said.

  • "And why do I say that? We know statistically based on our experience with the China trade shock in the 2000s that unemployment creates more suicides, depression and drug abuse."
  • "But we also know this in this crisis, as we've basically locked down our hospitals for everything but COVID, women haven't been getting mammograms or cervical examinations for cancer. We haven't been able to do other procedures for the heart or the kidneys. And that's going to kill people as well."

The big picture: Navarro also criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, claiming they "let the country down" because "not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test."

  • Instead of relying on the World Health Organization's coronavirus test in the early days of the outbreak, the CDC set out to create its own test.
  • But the CDC’s test didn’t always work, and manufacturing had to be relocated following possible contamination.

Since the lab contamination, the United States has only conducted 11 million coronavirus tests for a population of more than 329 million.

  • The country is currently conducting only half of the daily number of tests that some experts say we need to safely return to normal life, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

Go deeper: The pandemic's disruption of key health procedures could prove deadly

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