Attorney General William Barr warned that extended lockdowns are becoming more damaging to the United States than the coronavirus.
Barr appeared on conservative host Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on Tuesday. The Justice Department head said that while strict government action may have been justified to slow the coronavirus, the overbearing regulations are risking doing more harm than good.
“These are unprecedented burdens on civil liberties right now. You know, the idea that you have to stay in your house is disturbingly close to house arrest,” Barr said. “I’m not saying it wasn’t justified. I’m not saying in some places it might still be justified. But it’s very onerous, as is shutting down your livelihood.”
Barr went on to compare the coronavirus-induced shutdowns to chemotherapy treatments for a cancer patient.
“Your first thing is to drive [the cancer] back to a more manageable state, and that’s what we’re doing and have done,” the attorney general said. “The question is, you can’t just keep on feeding the patient chemotherapy and say ‘well, we’re killing the cancer,’ because we’re getting to the point where we’re killing the patient.”
Nearly 22 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in the past month, a rough estimate of the number of people that have either lost their jobs or been furloughed since states began implementing strict stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Department of Labor reported the latest claims numbers on Thursday, and the number of jobs lost has likely continued to climb steeply since.
As The Daily Wire reported at the time:
“The coronavirus effects to the economy are multiplying, and some economists say the unemployment rate might rise to 20% in April, which would be the highest since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unemployment never rose above 10% during the Great Recession.”
Protests have broken out across several states such as Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio of residents demanding that state governors loosen stringent regulations that are forcing many businesses to stay closed.
The pain of many businesses has been compounded since the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal relief fund meant to float businesses through the pandemic, went dry last week. Democrats in Washington have delayed a fresh cash infusion to the program to secure more funding for state and local governments. A bill is expected to pass the Senate on Tuesday.
Nearly 805,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the United States, and roughly 44,000 deaths have been attributed to the virus by Tuesday afternoon. New York, the state hardest hit by the pandemic, accounts for nearly half of total U.S. deaths with about 20,000.
A handful of states are preparing to relax emergency restriction in the coming days and will allow many people to begin working, albeit with some social distancing rules for the foreseeable future. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia is expected to be one of the first to begin opening his state, announcing on Monday that he would lift his stay-at-home order by the end of the week.