How Much Credit Should Lockdowns Get for Reducing COVID-19 Transmission?

All of it, The New York Times assumes.


Americans have been debating the effectiveness of COVID-19 lockdowns for months now. To what extent did broad business closure and stay-at-home orders—as opposed to narrower interventions and voluntary precautions—reduce virus transmission, thereby avoiding hospital crises, buying time to develop testing and tracing capacity, and preventing deaths that otherwise would have occurred? Conversely, to what extent can loosening those restrictions be expected to increase transmission, leading to more infections and deaths?

According to The New York Times, that debate has now been settled. "Data show," the Times reports, that "lockdown delays cost at least 36,000 lives." Researchers at Columbia University "found" that "even small differences in timing would have prevented the worst exponential growth," the Times says.

"If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak," the paper reports. "And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the nation's deaths—about 83 percent—would have been avoided, the researchers estimated." The "cost of waiting to take action," the Times concludes, was "enormous."

Already we see a problem with the way the Times has framed the issue, since "the United States" never "impos[ed] social distancing measures," and "the country" never "lock[ed] down cities and limit[ed] social contact." Instead of a single national response to COVID-19, we have seen a wide variety of local and state responses.

Worse, by conflating social distancing not only with coercive government interventions but with the most sweeping kind, the Times ignores everything else that was happening as politicians decided how to fight the epidemic. Americans were learning about the threat posed by the COVID-19 virus, especially to people with serious preexisting medical conditions, and they were reacting accordingly. They were taking to heart advice about avoiding crowds, minimizing travel and social contact, and working at home when feasible. The same scary increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths that motivated politicians to impose lockdowns also motivated people throughout the country to take precautions.

"Researchers found that the biggest risk for negative health outcomes was probably not state regulations, but people's own behavior," the Times reports in a different story published the same day. "Everyone wants us to talk about policy, but in fact personal behavior still matters a lot here," Kent Smetters, faculty director at the Penn Wharton Budget Model, told the Times.

The importance of those choices is clear from the data underlying the Columbia study highlighted by the Times. To estimate "inter-county human movement in six metropolitan areas," the researchers used data from SafeGraph, which tracks foot traffic counts at 5 million "points of interest" across the country, including bars, restaurants, stores, airports, hotels, and shopping malls. Their charts for Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, and New York show sharp declines in movement that began in early March, before lockdowns were imposed on these areas. That pattern is consistent with cellphone tracking data, which likewise show that Americans were moving around less before they were legally required to do so.

It is certainly plausible that lockdowns accelerated the downward trend. When the government forces "nonessential" businesses to close, fewer people go to work. When it shuts down bars, restaurants, movie theaters, recreational venues, and many stores, people have fewer places to go even if they are inclined to venture outside their homes. But as far as I can tell, this study makes no attempt to isolate the marginal effect of lockdowns. Instead the researchers asked what would have happened if the observed decline in movement had occurred one or two weeks earlier.

"The inference results indicate that the NPIs [non-pharmaceutical interventions] varyingly adopted in the US after March 15 have effectively reduced rates of COVID-19 transmission in the focus metropolitan areas," the study says. "To quantify the effects of earlier interventions on COVID-19 outcomes in the US, we performed two counterfactual simulations in which the sequence of transmission rates and ascertainment rate inferred for March 15–May 3, 2020 were shifted back 1 and 2 weeks, i.e. to March 8, 2020 and March 1, 2020, respectively."

Those "counterfactual simulations" are the basis for the confident assertions in the Times story. The researchers describe their results as indicating how things would have been different "had observed control measures been adopted" earlier: There would have been "dramatic reductions of morbidity and mortality due to more timely deployment of control measures." But the model described in the study does not include any specific policy variables, and the authors are vague in describing the "non-pharmaceutical interventions" they have in mind, saying only that reductions in movement happened "in association with social distancing and other control measures."

Do you know what else happened "in association with social distancing and other control measures"? People eventually started moving around more, even while they were still subject to lockdowns. Beginning in late March and early April, the charts show, "inter-county human movement" rose dramatically in all six metropolitan areas. Cellphone data likewise show a nationwide increase in mobility during this period.

Similarly, survey data from Gallup indicate that Americans started getting out more between late March and early May. The share of respondents who said they were completely or mostly isolating themselves—defined as limiting "contact" with people outside their households—fell from 75 percent in late March and early April to 58 percent in early May. That number fell both in states that had lifted their COVID-19 lockdowns as of May 4 and in states that were maintaining them, although the drop was bigger in the less restricted states.

Data like these should be interpreted cautiously, since mobility and "contact" do not necessarily entail a substantial increase in the risk of catching or transmitting the virus. That depends on why and how people are moving around, and whether they are taking precautions like wearing masks and maintaining an appropriate distance from others. As Scott Shackford has noted with regard to GPS data, the fact that people in largely rural states travel farther to pick up groceries or fill their gas tanks does not mean they are bad at social distancing. Likewise, someone who goes for a walk and waves at a neighbor, thereby increasing his "contact" with people outside his household, is hardly a public health menace.

But these trends do suggest that Americans are recalibrating their response to COVID-19 as they settle in for the long haul, regardless of what the government has told them to do. The edicts emphasized by the Times surely have some impact on behavior, but their power is limited by people's willingness to comply, since mass enforcement of stay-at-home orders was never really an option. Given the reality that lockdowns cannot be maintained indefinitely, the question is when and how they should be lifted.

On that score, the Columbia researchers advocate extreme caution. Just as imposing "control measures" earlier could have prevented tens of thousands of deaths, they say, relaxing those measures too soon could lead to a public health disaster. Again assuming that coercive policies are driving reductions in movement and transmission, they model the results of lifting lockdowns, which they assume will have to be reimposed when cases and deaths surge.

In their model, "a decline of daily confirmed cases continues for almost two weeks after easing of control measures. This decreasing trend, caused by the NPIs in place prior to May 4, 2020 coupled with the lag between infection acquisition and case confirmation, conveys a false signal that the pandemic is well under control. Unfortunately, due to high remaining population susceptibility, a large resurgence of both cases and deaths follows, peaking in early- and mid-June, despite the resumption of NPI measures 2 or 3 weeks following control relaxation."

It's not June yet, but by now there should be some indication of rising cases and deaths in states that lifted their lockdowns at the end of April, more than three weeks ago. The evidence at this point is mixed. While Georgia did not actually see a dramatic drop in COVID-19 cases after ending its lockdown, it did not see a spike either. Its seven-day moving average of confirmed cases initially continued to fall, then rose a bit before leveling off. Nor has Florida seen a notable increase in new confirmed cases since its lockdown ended.

While "daily cases in Texas are on the upswing," Sean Trende notes at Real Clear Politics, attributing that trend to the end of the state's lockdown is problematic. "The current spike appears to have started before Texas reopened," Trende writes. He also notes that wider testing will drive up the number of confirmed cases without a commensurate increase in infections, and that "the seven-day average of tests processed in Texas is increasing at a rapid pace."

One way of taking that factor into account is by looking at the percentage of virus tests that come up positive. "A declining rate of positive tests suggests that this really is a story of a wider net being cast, rather than increased infections driving testing," Trende says. "Indeed, that's what we see in Texas, where the percentage of tests being returned positive is at a two-month low."

The projections touted by the Times may yet turn out to be right. But the policy implications are not obvious, even leaving aside the dubious inference that lockdowns should get full credit for driving down transmission.

In the absence of widespread immunity, the deaths that the Times describes as "prevented" by lockdowns may simply be delayed. Among other things, that depends on the effectiveness of more carefully targeted policies aimed at protecting people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 until a vaccine can be deployed or herd immunity is achieved. It also depends on the precautions those people take on their own—the sort of crucially important adaptive behavior that the Times ignores in its focus on what the government should have done or should do now.

The scenario imagined by the Columbia researchers—in which state governments lift broad restrictions, then reimpose them because of the alarming consequences, then (presumably) repeat that cycle—would be politically untenable as well as economically ruinous. As their own data show, there are limits to the restraints that Americans are prepared to tolerate, regardless of what the models assume.

NEXT: A Huge Blow to Hongkongers' Freedoms

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  1. //Likewise, someone who goes for a walk and waves at a neighbor, thereby increasing his "contact" with people outside his household, is hardly a public health menace.//

    Assuming he was also wearing an attractive bandana, that is.

    1. Chicks in baggy sweatshirts and masks are a mental health menace. How are we supposed to tell where they lie on the Crazy/Hotness Index? Ignore them all.

      1. I was actually thinking of something sort of along these lines yesterday when I was at Costco. This lady was wearing a mask so I couldn’t see her face, but she had tight pants on, and a really nice ass. So without seeing her face, I have to assume she was the most attractive woman in the store.

        What if this whole mask thing is just a conspiracy by butterfaces?

        1. She was a he

          1. So a tranny conspiracy?

            1. The "existence" of trannies is itself a conspiracy … against common sense.

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      2. Hmm.
        I see you do not live in Florida...

      3. Crazy Karen's are turned up to 100 on the crazy scale.

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    2. If the prohibitions on liberty were as effect as is being preached (and shall be taught in schools forevermore) not only brought us back from the brink, but turned back the doomsday clock and lowered the seas, then why in the first two-weeks of the Australian flu season have they experienced >20,000 CONFIRMED flu cases. How is it the flu hasn't fallen for the parlor tricks that has duped COVID? Or, have they got it all wrong? In N.H. we've an infection rate of 1.5-2 per 1,000 and what price do we pay for this achievement? Our civil liberty, but "only" a little ya know. It's for the greater good after all. When our flu season rolls round... what happens then? Last flu season the US had 174 weds fatalities. I believe that dwarfs COVID pets fatalities in the US. Clearly the answer is simple, just the slightest more sacrifice at the alter of your former civil liberties.

      1. Got a link for the Aussie stats?

      2. What are "weds" and "pets" typos for?

      3. Not that I don’t trust you, but do you have a link? I’d love to rub that in as many smug liberal faces as possible.

  2. Let's imagine the NYT headlines if Trump had , in late February, shut down the New York City airports and highways and brought in the army to enforce a 15 day lockdown on NYC and No Jersey? Thousands of those lives would have been saved but it is doubtful NYT, Cuomo, and Murphy would have cheered.

    1. Cuomo would still have had his nursing home policy which is a huge share of their deaths.

      1. There is new data from Minnesota this morning that says a similar policy has caused 81% of their deaths to be in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Minnesota is also still sending infected patients back to nursing homes to make room in hospitals.

        I think a lot of states/counties made similar mistakes. In Southern California, Ventura County implemented a robust plan from the start to protect the elderly in their facilities and they have seen very few deaths.

        1. Same in Pennsylvania.

          The nursing home policies are probably way more correlated to covid deaths than the lockdowns.

        2. Add NJ to the list as well.

          1. True = NJ

            Phailing Phil Murphy, and his elf Health Commissar should be held personally accountable for their bad decisions.

      2. Cuomo wants to kill grandma. And he did.

        1. Turns out, YOUR grandmother is expendable.

          1. I believe the correct term is "Non-Essential"

            1. But will Cuomo get credit for improving Social Security solvency?

            2. Yes, leave it to socialists to use euphenism because plain language is upsetting.

    2. Yeah, the stay at home orders and the social distancing and the mask requirements are COVID theater. Domestic air travel was never stopped, as thousands fled New York to spread the virus nationwide.

  3. Perhaps it is a little bit like the old joke about the man who walked around blowing a horn. Asked why, he said it was to frighten off the elephants. Told that there are no elephants in New York, he said
    "See - it works!"

    1. You do not understand. Greta says the lack of elephants in NYC is the fault of capitalism. The Times says it is the fault of White People. And Green Peace will arrest the man with the horn for hassling the wildlife.

  4. Researchers at Columbia University "found" that "even small differences in timing would have prevented the worst exponential growth,"

    They mean in nursing homes, correct? NYT and Columbia are acknowledging that the governors who ordered COVID positive patients mixed into the uninfected population in nursing homes are to blame for the worst of the pandemic? Because anything else would not just be a vicious lie, it would be passive acceptance of the deliberate infection of a vulnerable population on the scale of what the U.S. Army did to the Plains Indians with smallpox. We have been told that the smallpox blankets amount to vicious murder, so this is vicious murder too, yes?

    1. Researches at columbia... aka PhD students. The worst modelers on the planet. They unit test solely by making sure the output matches their assumptions.

    2. Please stop repeating that smallpox blanket bullshit. That fairy tale needs to fucking die already.

      1. LOL! It is the perfect metaphor for what Cuomo did. Regardless of it's veracity, laying it back at the feet of Proggies is a perfectly valid reason to pull it out of the dustbin.

        1. Agreed. I don't know if the smallpox story is true but the Cuomo story is playing out in real time right now.

      2. Please stop repeating that smallpox blanket bullshit. That fairy tale needs to fucking die already.

        The thing that blows my mind is that typically, the same people who will tell you that the Founding Fathers couldn't have imagined automatic fire will tell you that the Ancient Romans were lobbing infected corpses into sieged cities millennia before germ theory existed. Then, despite either actual reality or their narrative reality, every civilization that's ever colonized another region or continent, not only didn't use the same sorts of tactics, but were, again despite their ignorance, careful not to bring and spread diseases centuries before the first would-be American set foot on the Continent.

        The Spanish, French, Dutch, and British all made contacts with Native Americans centuries before the Americans displaced anybody.

        1. Isn't the thought that somebody showed up between Eric the Red and the Spanish, and introduced a lot of European disease to the Native Americans? I had thought the latest archeology findings were that a bunch of plagues swept through North America, ballpark 1200-1400 and really thinned the herd, enabling settlements like Jamestown and Plymouth to not get wiped off the map when the natives inevitably tired of the colonists' company?

          1. Not sure. I do know that Columbus was under decree to be 'friendly and loving' to the Natives, much like Marco Polo. In his second expedition. 2/3 of the settlers succumbed to smallpox in the first year. A 'friendly and loving' social policy would've been more destructive than if they'd landed as hostiles.

            The narrative that '90% of natives were eliminated through disease and violence' is specifically intended to conflate one with the other. Either way, it's pretty clear that the 90% of natives who would succumb to disease had already started well before Jamestown was settled.

            1. I argued this one back during the pipeline protests. Kept hearing people claim "we" were responsible for murdering 50 million natives. I swear the narrative is everything to such people and there is zero interest in understanding reality

              1. It's quite like arguing reality concerning the Holocaust, isn't it?

    3. Because anything else would not just be a vicious lie, it would be passive acceptance of the deliberate infection of a vulnerable population on the scale of what the U.S. Army did to the Plains Indians with smallpox. We have been told that the smallpox blankets amount to vicious murder, so this is vicious murder too, yes?

      Not to burst any bubbles but this seems to be an amalgamation of several apocryphal stories. First, it sounds like the Siege of Fort Pitt in Ohio Territory 1763, which would mean it was the British and several Northeastern (not Plains) Tribes, not they US Army and the Plains Indians. Also, the Indians sieged the Fort which arguably makes retaliation self-defense.

      However, even if you're reporting some other later incident, Koch's Postulates firmly establishing microbes as causitive agents for disease and Lister's development of asceptic techinque weren't known and widespread until well into the 1900s. Well after the Tribal nations had been subdued/eliminated. While the above incident definitely contained hostile actors (the materials offered were soiled and dirty), the idea of not reusing linens (esp. clean linens) would be considered expert medical advice and not necessarily well-understood practice (esp. considering many people couldn't even read). Meaning, it's just as likely that well-meaning traders of all nations gave the natives smallpox just as, if not more prolifically, than any military action. Indeed, in the incidence above, the British Army narrowly ended the siege (indicating any sweeping plagues were largely ineffective) but proclaimed no further westward settlement would take place.

      Ultimately, if plague blankets in response to siege is murder, it's murder 3 at best. Whereas Cuomo was effectively perpetrating it with a more complete knowledge of disease and against people who had not displayed any overt aggression.

  5. I've noticed that the Karens on social media are getting angrier and more frantic at the thought that more and more people are refusing to obey them.

    1. Why don't they complain to the manager then?

      1. The manager thinks they're nuts.

  6. None.

    There is no correlation between lockdown severity and covid severity.

    In fact there may be a slight inverse as many countries never went into lockdown a d have much better rates for covid CFR.

    Drew Pinsky even called it out this morning flatly stating there is no science of lockdowns, just modeling. The models were built on conjecture. Theyve been proven massively wrong.

    1. In the short run states can flatten their COVID death curve while they flatten their economy and tax base. But in the long run, states that flatten it too much risk hitting Round 2 in the fall cold and flu season with a lower population immunity, a less healthy populace (mentally and physically), and an underfunded government less capable of responding to actual emergencies.

  7. “[T]hey model the results of lifting lockdowns, which they assume will have to be reimposed when cases and deaths surge.“

    More fucking models.

    When did it become okay to replace knowledge with models? Presupposition is not science. And models rely on guesswork, not knowledge. Perhaps they’re useful in pointing scientists in the general direction, but I haven’t yet seen a model be anywhere near accurate. From Climate Change models that predicted the end of ice in the arctic to the model that said 2 million Americans would die, they’re all bullshit.

    If you’re using a model, don’t even bother talking to me. I want knowledge, not bullshit pulled from ether.

    1. Climate change. Mid nineties.

    2. Don't worry, we'll have enough data in a few weeks to know what to do, wait, what? They conflated all the data and it is worthless? Really? The Centers for Disease Control, whose entire existence is predicated on tracking data related to illness accurately? So now there is no data judge the 'public health experts' models or to determine if the preliminary recommendations were sound advice. Interesting.

      "Well, Mr. Fox, you are the expert on chickens, if you think I should lock the hens in the henhouse and give you the key so you can monitor their progress, then by all means, that's what we will do."

      1. They have plenty of data, from academic studies in northern and southern California, in New York, in Florida, in Iceland, in Germany, on cruise ships and elsewhere. Unless you were already in poor health, the virus is not particularly deadly.

        1. He's referring to the earlier Reason story that reported CDC has been conflating viral tests and antibody tests as 'new cases' on the day of the test result. Which does, in fact, make the CDC's data worthless.

    3. Excellent post.

    4. Another science denying grandma killer. How do you sleep at night?

    5. All of the "models" are geared toward the idea that ruining the economy will keep Trump from being re-elected.
      How far they go into lala land is a matter of how much he is hated.

      1. FACT: Exactly. Only an idiot would believe for a minute that Trump had anything to do with crashing the economy. Unfortunately there are a lot of idiots out there.

    6. No one is going to stand for reimposed lockdowns. Any governor going that route will join the jobless.

  8. The great state of Florida humbly disagrees.

  9. "If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak,"

    Since this never could be eradicated, we are all(near enough) gonna get this eventually, the number of people who will die from this, even with medical intervention, is pretty much a fixed number.
    You can to some extent change the timing of deaths by reducing the rate of spread.
    You can reduce deaths of people who otherwise would live by ensuring hospitals don't have people spilling out into the parking lot (I'd think of these as excess, preventable deaths)
    Maybe with a great deal of luck and effort you can decrease the number by imposing strict requirements and testing on nursing homes and the like.

    Ultimately since it can't be eradicated, claiming that the number of deaths would be reduced by altering timing by one week seems kinda BS to me. The only thing that mandating house arrest one week earlier would do is delay things, not prevent things.

    1. I agree with you, with a couple of tweaks. Delaying deaths is "saving lives", even if only by a bit. Ultimately, we are all just delaying death. I also do not think we are saving a significant number of people with medical intervention. We don't have a useful therapy. Of those patients who were ventilated, 80% died according to some accounts. Since ventilators cause problems by themselves (like bacterial pneumonia), I doubt the net benefit of medical therapy.

  10. What's the 36,000 deaths based on--the number of deaths that WEREN'T in nursing homes?

  11. I am of the opinion that the NYT has no idea what it is talking about, and has not accurately understood the Columbia study. Even believing that the lockdown had any effect, which I don't, there is no attempt by Columbia to evaluate the total number of deaths that will ultimately be attributed to Covid-19. It is true that delaying death by a few months is "saving lives", but not by much. There will be no preventing the ultimate infection of 60% of the population, lockdown or no.

  12. Widespread PCR testing began in Asia on January 17. Because of the multiple blunders and misguided policies of the CDC and FDA, the US released its very first tests on March 2, six weeks later than the rest of the world. The idea that we should’ve shut down on March 1 without having had any testing available to tell us who was infected and where they were, is the most disingenuous partisan hit yet. So much for the newspaper of record.

  13. So, Mission Accomplished?

  14. The lock down isn't preventing infections, it is only delaying them. Without a vaccine, virtually all of us will eventually be exposed to the virus with most of us being asymptomatic or getting a mild case. We need to get on with this process in a deliberate way to avoid overwhelming hospitals while also keeping our economy alive. Herd immunity is the only certain way to end the epidemic.

    1. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And I would add, makes the species stronger. We've known this for thousands of years. Attempts to short circuit evolution will ultimately fail and lead to much more severe consequences for the species. This is a virus but only one of many. If a vaccine can be developed it would be of great benefit. But it doesn't change much in the long term because this virus only threatens people who were already close to death. We've destroyed our economy to save a relative handful of mostly old people at the long term expense to the young. This cannot end well. And no, I don't wanna kill grandma because I'm married to one. And I don't wanna kill grandpa because I am one.

  15. Admittedly, I didn’t read the whole thing, but did the researchers also model where unemployment would be at if the lockdowns happened earlier? Would we be at 45 million? 50 million?

    How about underemployment? Another 50-60 million people working severely reduced hours?

    What about stimulus monies? How many kajillions more would need to be printed? Would we even have enough paper for the money to be printed on?

    1. Irrelevant. If it saves one child, er, one terminal patient nothing else matters.

  16. The answer is zero.

    The answer is to how many people did the nursing home policy put in place by Cuomo, Wolf, and others kill is 75%.

    We should have never locked down. There is zero scientific evidence that it is effective.

  17. Lockdowns, house arrest, masks have done absolutely nothing. Life should have just continued on and it would have resolved itself as things do every year at the time of colds and flu.

  18. "... Kent Smetters, faculty director at the Penn Wharton Budget Motel...".

    At least that's how I read it.

    1. Me too.

  19. The only purpose of any NYT article is to demean Trump. They know the total number of deaths won’t change just the amount of time it takes. This is the same as Cuomo blaming Trump for his mistakes with the elderly.

    Really the left assumes you’re stupid enough or blind to go along with them. Tag along if you must but remember you’re only as free as that leash they have you on.

  20. Covid virus and Covid syndrome are not the same thing. That’s the cover up.

  21. Wow. The Times is dishonest, partisan, fully in the pocket of the government and quite possibly, evil.

    Tell me something I don't know.

  22. I see this study has many many weakness to say the least, but given the political nature of journals, it is possible that it can be published and make it a fact. This happens all the time, especially social science.

  23. Okay, let's just accept at face value that one week of government intervention cost 36k lives, sans any evidence. We've been in this lockdown now 8 weeks and the government alone has printed four trillion dollars in response to the economic devastation that it (not the virus) has caused. That's about 500 BILLION dollars a week. If we assume the government's response is proportionate to the impact then that extra week of closure would be worth another 500 billion. So a quick punch of the calculator reveals that to be...

    Remind me again Uncle Sam how much a life is worth? Oh right, the government assumes a generic life is worth around 10 million. Oh, when you put it like that the government almost looks like its only spending about 50% more than it should. That would be merely spendthrift. But coronavirus doesn't kill "generic lives". No, it pretty much only kills 79 year olds with 3+ medical conditions. How much are their lives worth, financially? Oh, $129,000 per "quality life year"?

    And remember, just want to drive this home: This is on the baseless bootlicking estimation of the New York Times. This isn't estimations cooked up by Team Trump trying to paint his orangeness as god's gift to prudent government. This is the white-washiest, water-carriest, leftiest propaganda rag spewing only the most biased untruths that test the belief of even the most died-in-the-wool koolaid-drinking liberal. THIS is the lie they want to peddle because this is as far as they believe they can take it and it is STILL outrageous.

    Ladies and gentlemen. I believe we've been scammed.

    1. Something I have noticed: opinion writers, when grappling with the obvious problems of the NYT, always argue it still "worth it" to have a subscription because they do "good reporting." I can't remember the last time I read an article about the "good reporting" the Times did that week.

      Even if the NYT is actually staffed with muckracking gumshoes (it's not), their editorial positions alone are enough to convince me giving them a fucking dime is an attack on common sense and decency. I really cannot reconcile supporting the Times financially while disagreeing with the editorial department. The op-ed is fundamentally the same beast as the paper itself, and therefore no one with an ounce of decency should pay for The Times.

      Steal it from your neighbors, hack their paywall. Don't give them your money.

  24. My question is about psychology -- why so many leftists exaggerate the risks of the virus and advocate for lockdown? They work very hard to attack any piece of good news about the epidemic and push the bad news. What is in it for them?

    1. Orange Man bad; Orange Man say lockdowns should end; Orange Man bad.

    2. Doomsday porn.

      Scan through the Times on any day, and calculate the percentage of news and opinion pieces that present a negative view of the world. The serve what Steven Pinker calls Progressaphobics.

      1. This is the case since without doom and gloom why would we need the government

      2. True. Everything is so terrible and unfair.

  25. If the NYT is saying that, then the opposite is more likely.

  26. Hm.

    Let's do basic logic.

    According to the FT, job hours lost equals to 300 million full time jobs. Something like 40 million North Americans lost jobs. The UN estimates 265 million people on the brink of starvation. The U.S. economy contracted 5%. Domestic - women and child - abuse rose. Suicides sky rocketed. Important surgeries deferred or not performed. Never mind the undo stress. Stress kills.

    Now that's destruction.

    Um. I'm no genius but the unintended consequences (which really should have been obvious pretty much ensure the lockdowns weren't just dumb, but pretty spectacularly immoral.

    They were supposed to be temporary and the sons of bitches extended it even though the societal fall outs were becoming apparent.

    Even if it did save lives, it was massively offset by the misery it brought.

    The ENTIRE staff of the NYT and its brain dead readers and everyone who blindly supported it because of their fears and misplaced arrogance can straight off go to hell.

    1. You are right. The price of cowardice and stupidity has never been this high.

    2. I disagree that the consequences were unintended.
      It is my opinion that the fascist takeover of the entire economy were fully intended, and have been for decades. The left wants complete control over the smallest detail of the lives of the citizens. Go back over the policies of the socialists; look at how happy they were to take over healthcare/health insurance (18% of the economy). Look at their unending parade of regulations.

      1. Bingo. Below is from an article in the Columbus Dispatch (4/18):
        Secondly, Upchurch said, the recovery task force needs to think about people for whom the economy wasn't working before coronavirus came along. Many economists and policymakers are saying that the COVID-19 pandemic will permanently reshape the world economy. Upchurch sees that as an opportunity.

        "We have a unique opportunity to make sure the economy works for everybody."
        -Terrence Upchurch (D), Cleveland

        1. Oh, goody! A planned economy!
          Perhaps planned in 5-year intervals, since we have historical evidence of how effective that is.

          1. In Soviet Russia, economy works for you!

      2. Mistakes of that size are not made innocently.

    3. Yeah, they always assume that the lockdowns save X number of lives, without looking at the cost of the lockdowns in lives, misery or dollars. Being stuck at home, or losing your job, or staying away from friends and family, or losing your home, or going hungry are all really bad for your health too.

  27. Imposing lockdown in February would not have helped - even assuming that lockdowns prevent deaths (but in reality it just postpones the inevitable).
    And the virus was most likely circulating in US and in Europe since the time of Thanksgiving most likely - and the busiest travel season may have accelerated the spread.

  28. Oh wait! It is the NYT. Yeah, we can safely ignore it.

  29. "How Much Credit Should Lockdowns Get for Reducing COVID-19 Transmission?"

    How much should we credit the assumption that there was a reduction in transmission?

  30. Where's JFree recently? That cowardly piece of lefty shit needs to be pummeled daily.

  31. The virus peaked on April 15th and has been declining since then, in pretty much every legal jurisdiction, regardless of lockdown policy variety.

  32. So Ronald Bailey your point is that that individuals started isolating before the lockdowns in NY, NJ, and other places and continued circulating after them. If I'm reading you correctly, in terms of social distancing, the blame for the virus spreading as much as it has--about as bad as anywhere on the planet thus far--should lie largely with individuals. Is that correct? A better libertarian way would be what?

  33. The state doesn't care that you applaud.
    The state cares when you stop applauding.

  34. All modeling is garbage in garbage out.

  35. 70 to 80% of all virus deaths were in nursing homes. Not sure lockdown worked for them, or that an early lockdown would have prevented 36,000 deaths. But of course the NYT is more interested in leftist agenda than facts these days.

  36. The NYTimes?
    Are they serious???? Are we take this silly proclamation seriously? Really?

    But sure, let's play "What If!?"
    What if the Wuhan BioLab had applied better security procedures and thereby prevented the spread of the virus from lab to market? Gosh, I'd bet 346K lives might have been saved. If only...

    What if the Wet Markets had themselves been eliminated following the 2002 SARS outbreak? Gosh, I'd bet 346K lives might been saved. If only....

    What if we had designed and funded (to the tune of $12B annually) a massive government organization dedicated solely to the tracking and prevention of disease outbreaks in the United States? [Wait a minute....we DID do that!] OK, so what if we had actually gotten our money's-worth out of that multi-billion dollar investment? What if the CDC had actually done what we're paying them to do???? Gosh, I'd bet 100K American lives might have been saved! If only....

    What if we had implemented TIGHT border controls all across the United States years and years ago? What if the CDC had warned us, back in December that a highly-infectious and potentially fatal virus was heading this direction from China/via Italy, et al? What if we had used that tight border control system to STOP the passage of anyone from China/Italy beginning in January?? Gosh, I'd bet tens of thousands of lives would have been saved. If only....

    What if, as a nation, we were not so deeply and consistently comorbid? What if we were not so hypertense.... so you-name-it?? Gosh, I'd bet -- once again -- that many tens of thousands of lives might have been saved (especially since the CDC estimates that 93% of all so-called 'virus deaths' occur in the comorobid (averaging 2.5 comorbidities/victim)! If only....

    So yeah, what if we had known what we know now back then? What if we had effectively applied what we did not yet know in the Way Back Then? What if we had all -- as individuals -- behaved more responsibly, given this knowledge that we did not yet have? What if the government were really super great? What if the hospitals themselves were more prepared?

    What if Big Pharma had responded in heroic fashion to the non-existent early warning which was not issued by the CDC back in December (well in line with Anti-Wet Market declarations also not issued by the WHO)? What if Big Pharma then activated their non-existent anti-viral vaccine accelerator (already pre-cleared by the remarkably indifferent FDA) to develop and implement an Anti-Covid Vaccine in February???

    Wow -- if that had only happened, I'd bet we'd be having a completely different conversation round about now! If only....

    And what if I had written the Great American Novel and then went on Dick Cavett's show to proclaim that I was leaving literature behind to develop a cure for cancer AND aging ....and what if I actually did all that???? I'd bet I could get a date with Scarlett J.....whaddya think???

    And what if pigs could fly?

  37. When this is over I think we will find that 90% of what was done was wrong, poorly timed or just worthless.

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