As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to be inaugurated Wednesday, there has been a marked change in the approach that Democratic governors and mayors are taking to COVID-19 lockdowns.
During his "State of the State Address" last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned against prolonged lockdowns and the "economic, mental and spiritual hardships they bring."
"We need to act now," Cuomo said. "If we don't, dining will remain at levels too low for restaurants to survive, offices will remain empty, hurting the service business that depend on those office workers, theaters and sports venues will sit empty, people will remain out of work."
Those remarks stood in sharp contrast to Cuomo's persistent defense of his own lockdown policies, some of the strictest in the nation. During the summer months, while other governors were pushing to reopen businesses in their states, Cuomo suggested that such a decision was trading on the value of a human life.
"The faster we reopen the lower the economic cost, but the higher the human cost," Cuomo said at the time. "Because the more lives lost. That my friends, is the decision we are really making … How much is a human life worth? That is the real discussion that no one is admitting, openly or freely. That we should. To me, I say the cost of a human life, a human life is priceless. Period."
Critics were quick to seize on Cuomo's apparent change of heart.
Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who just weeks ago issued a rigid stay-at-home order that banned private citizens from hosting guests in their homes who weren't immediate family or healthcare workers, is now calling to reopen bars and restaurants.
"If we have people and give them an outlet for entertainment in the restaurant space, in the bar space, we have much more of an opportunity, in my view, to be able to regulate and control that environment," the Democrat Lightfoot said Thursday. "People are engaging in risky behavior that is not only putting themselves at risk, but putting their families, their co-workers, and other ones at risk. Let's bring it out of the shadows. Let's allow them to have some recreation in restaurants, in bars, where we can actually work with responsible owners and managers to regulate and protect people from COVID-19."
These new policy changes also coincide with the publication of academic studies that appear to show that coronavirus lockdowns are not as effective as once believed.