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Joe Nocera

Lockdowns Are a Step Too Far in Combating Covid-19

Health officials are coming around to the conclusion that they do more harm than good except in limited circumstances.

Distrust of shutdowns.

Distrust of shutdowns.

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

D.A. Henderson was a remarkable man. An expert in bioterrorism, dean of what is now the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and frequent adviser to U.S. presidents, Henderson was best known as the man who eradicated smallpox in the 1970s. His knowledge of infectious diseases was unsurpassed.

In the mid-2000s, when the U.S. public health community was trying to devise a program to fight pandemics, Henderson, who died in 2016 at the age of 87, was in the thick of it. The 9/11 attacks had given rise to fears of bioterrorism, and President George W. Bush, having read John M. Barry’s book about the 1918 pandemic, “The Great Influenza,” was pushing public health officials to come up with a preparedness plan that could be put into action if a new virus took hold.