Is Sweden's COVID-19 Policy 'Relatively Rational' or 'Calamitous'?

If the goal is minimizing the death toll over the long run, it is too soon to say.


Scott Atlas, the physician and Hoover Institution fellow who is now advising President Donald Trump on COVID-19, thinks Sweden's approach to the disease, which has been notably less restrictive than the policies of other European countries, is "relatively rational" and "has been inappropriately criticized." By contrast, The New York Times, which is worried about Atlas' influence on the president, says Sweden's policy has been "disastrous" and "calamitous." That judgment seems premature if the goal is minimizing total COVID-19 deaths over the long term at an acceptable cost.

While Sweden avoided a general lockdown, the government did ban large public gatherings, close high schools and universities, and recommend physical distancing in bars and restaurants. It urged people to work at home if feasible and avoid unnecessary travel or social events "attracting many people at the same time." It advised people older than 70 to stay at home as much as possible. As Atlas sees it, Sweden "did appropriate social distancing guidelines, very important, instead of decrees and confinement….What they said was these are the guidelines. We're not gonna do a total lockdown. We believe you understand the seriousness of this."

How did that work out? Sweden's overall COVID-19 numbers look pretty bad. According to Worldometer's tallies, Sweden so far has seen 576 COVID-19 deaths per 1 million people, which is much higher than the rates in three neighboring countries that imposed more sweeping restrictions on social and economic activity: Denmark (108), Finland (61), and Norway (49). Yet several other European countries have fared worse than Sweden despite lockdowns, including Belgium (853), Italy (587), Spain (623), and the U.K. (611). And in the United States, where all but a few governors imposed broad lockdowns last spring, per capita COVID-19 deaths (570 per million) are about the same as in Sweden.

One can always argue that lockdowns would have been more effective in those countries if only they had been imposed earlier or lifted later and more cautiously, or that things would have been even worse without those restrictions. But on the face of it, countries such as Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. inflicted a lot of economic and social pain on their citizens without any obvious payoff in terms of fewer deaths.

What about the trajectories of cases and deaths? In Sweden, the seven-day average of newly identified cases peaked in mid-to-late June and has since fallen by 86 percent. The seven-day average of daily deaths has fallen by 99 percent since its peak in mid-April.

By comparison, Sweden's Nordic neighbors saw new cases peak in early April (Denmark and Finland) or late May (Norway). Daily deaths peaked in late March (Norway), early April (Denmark), or late April (Finland). All three countries imposed broad restrictions in mid-March, so these trends are consistent with the hypothesis that lockdowns reduce virus transmission and deaths, at least in the short term.

In the United States, new cases peaked in late July, about two months after states began lifting their lockdowns, and have since fallen by 39 percent. Daily deaths are down 59 percent from their peak on April 21. By these measures, Sweden has been more successful at reducing cases and deaths, notwithstanding the government's decision to eschew a broad lockdown—although Sweden, like the United States, initially did a poor job of protecting nursing home residents from COVID-19.

As Ron Bailey notes, Sweden's sharp reductions in cases and deaths may be at least partly attributable to herd immunity, which was never an official goal but may have been a byproduct of the government's less restrictive approach. The same policies that left Swedes more opportunities to mingle, leading to more cases in the spring, may have made the population less vulnerable to infection in the summer. Although antibody studies suggest that Sweden is not close to reaching an infection rate of 60 percent, which many epidemiologists think is the minimum threshold for herd immunity, those tests and those estimates could be misleading if prior infection by other coronaviruses confers some level of resistance through T-cell memory, as some research suggests, and if the people who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 were disproportionately likely to be infected early in the epidemic.

All of this is "very speculative," as Bailey notes. But people who think natural herd immunity, combined with precautions aimed at protecting high-risk groups, is the best way to minimize the pandemic's impact argue that such an approach trades more fatalities in the short run for fewer fatalities in the long run, ultimately resulting in a lower death toll. Scott Atlas seems receptive to that idea, which is the main reason the Times views him as a dangerous influence on White House policy.

"It doesn't really matter how many [COVID-19] cases" we have, Atlas said on Fox News in July, when newly identified infections were surging, primarily among younger, healthier people. "It only matters who gets the cases, because we know the infection fatality rate for people under 70 is 0.04 percent….The cases themselves should not be and were never the focus. It's only the tragic consequences of the cases."

Atlas added that "when you have a lot of low-risk people get the infection, that's how you generate population immunity." He also suggested that antibody studies provide a misleading picture of how close any particular place is to that goal, given the role of "T-cell immunity," which is not detected by those tests.

Atlas argues that the aim should be "stopping the deaths by protecting the high-risk people" and "preventing hospital overcrowding while you safely reopen society." But he insists that, contrary to what The Washington Post reported this week, he is not pushing the Trump administration to favor herd immunity over general restrictions aimed at reducing virus transmission.

"There is no advising going on from me about…pursuing [a] herd immunity strategy," Atlas said on Fox News last night. "I've never said that to the president. I've never said that to the [COVID-19] task force. No one's ever said that to the president. I've never heard the president say that. It is not a strategy here in any way, shape, or form. It's just an overt lie."

However you feel about lockdowns, advocates of a herd immunity strategy make a point that needs to be considered in weighing their costs and benefits. To the extent that lockdowns limit interactions and reduce virus transmission, they leave a population more vulnerable to infection than it otherwise would have been. Barring the unexpectedly early deployment of effective vaccines, lockdowns may change the timing of deaths without reducing the total. Since it is not feasible to maintain lockdowns indefinitely, that strategy may lay the ground for additional waves of cases and deaths. If Sweden manages to avoid that outcome, its approach may not look so calamitous after all.

NEXT: Both Biden and Trump Plan to Spend Well Beyond the Government's Means

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  1. Completely rational.

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  2. Great. Now do the economic impact analysis.

    1. If it saves even one life, we have to keep everything shut down forever. Unless the Speaker of the House or her nephew needs to get their hair done.

    2. And then factor in all the deaths caused by the lockdown itself.

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  4. Not only did the lock downs cause great economic damage it showed the powers that be how much they can get away with. It increased their power. That’s a huge negative result . And still the people most at risk died any way.

    1. Hopefully we’ve developed a little bit of immunity to future lockdowns. I don’t think they’ll be able to get away with it again (to the extent that they did this time).

      1. It depends how this ends, and the aftermath. The progressives want people to be scared through the end of the year, feeling like restrictions are keeping them safe, and then Biden takes office and, voila, in the span of a month or two winds this whole thing up with a combination of tough love and a vaccine (or some other magic beans to convince everyone that the problem is largely solved) and returns us to a quasi-normal state. That is the script, and if it goes according to plan, they expect that everyone will maintain the feeling that our big mistake was not locking down and masking up sooner and harder, and will be prepared to expect and even demand that next time a bunch of people get sick.

        If, however, people start to realize that they have been duped, that the risk was never as advertised, that they had most of a year of their lives (never mind untold fortune) stripped from them based on tests that were designed to produce positive results even when there was no risk of active infection or transmission- then good luck getting them to trust government, health experts, or “science” bureaucrats for a good long time. And I think that this may be the more likely outcome. I’m not sure it will happen as quickly as I’d like (i.e. in the next month or so), but eventually the dam is going to break. The PCR testing scandal is bubbling below the surface, and if it is anything like it seems, sooner or later is going to have to break into the mainstream (the NYT, of all outlets, already published an article albeit without much fanfare). Even just looking at already existing and known data about mortality and relative risk, there is a lot there for a journalist looking to rake some muck, progressive politics be damned.

        1. I hope you’re right.

          I want the levees to break.

          1. I drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry

          2. You won’t be among the survivors.

            1. There’s a 99.94% chance he will be.

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        2. Government, especially progressive totalitarians, won’t suffer any consequences, nor be discouraged from taking it further, unless people hang.
          And I mean that 100% literally.

          Just look at Pelosi. Busted exercising her ruling class privilege, and her response is to throw the salon owner, whose business has already been crushed, under the bus and demand an apology.
          They have no shame, no integrity, and no restraint.
          Only violence will stop them.

          1. “…her response is to throw the salon owner, whose business has already been crushed, under the bus and demand an apology…”
            Assuming that hag is telling the truth, which is doubtful in the extreme, shame on that business owner for not telling the Speaker of the House what the laws are!
            Assuming the hag is a decent tipper, I’m sorry for the guy renting the chair, but fuck her with a running, rusty, chainsaw.

            1. Put another way, poor, poor Nancy who can’t be expected to know the law!
              The new 1% victimhood!

        3. It’s not the tests that were “designed to produce positive results even when there was no risk of active infection or transmission”. The tests are limited to detecting the presence of chemicals which indicate the presence of the virus. I personally self-quarantied for 4 weeks despite having only mild symptoms for maybe 9 days because I continued to test “positive” for a week after the symptoms ended and it took a total of 8 days to get the 2 negative results which the CDC recommended as the standard for knowing the virus has been “cleared”; I never considered that to be a result of some “conspiracy” and just chalked it up to the circumstance and timing of when I was infected (I also didn’t really suffer any serious consequences other than boredom, so I’m not particularly agitated about it)

          The recommendation/orders to quarantine anyone testing “positive” may well have been designed with an abundance of caution, in part because the “experts” have been learning the attributes of the virus in real-time. One factor that’s done a lot of damage is the apparent attitude that the “experts” can’t admit to not knowing something, even at a time when it would be unreasonable to expect anyone to know it with any certainty.

          Possibly one of the most damaging things that’s happened in all this was the stretch of several weeks during which WHO insisted the virus couldn’t be spread through the air and must therefore be transmitting through surface contacts (something which has since been proven to be nearly impossible), and as a result the “safety theater” of public policy had people focused on washing their hands for 20 seconds while continuing to gather in enclosed spaces. Then the lockdowns (especially here in CA and in NYC) included a hard shutdown of outdoor spaces like parks and beaches where the virus is far less likely to spread and forced people to stay indoors where it can spread very effectively if one person in a particular space gets infected. All in the name of appeasing the “just do something” crowd who have never cared whether or not that “something” is effective or if it’s counterproductive so long as there’s something that looks like action on the part of the “leaders”.

          1. Quarantine orders for people who are infected are prudent, even if the risk of transmission is low.

            Quarantine orders for everyone is totalitarian and stupid.

            1. Quarantine orders should not only be made on the risk of transmission. Consideration should also include likely consequences; we don’t quarantine for colds, because they don’t kill.

      2. Disagree.

        There are 2 options:

        1) This massive surge of big government is beaten back. Somehow.

        2) This massive surge of big government is accepted as necessary for our health and safety, and is here to stay.

        Guess which I’m betting on.

        1. IJ is seemingly focused on the ‘long view’ and does not find the least urgency in dealing with this power-grab; unless things change, my contribution to IJ this year is going to shrink drastically. This is NOT a ‘we’ll get around to it’ issue.
          These guys seem to be doing something:

          I’ve got 4 months to track their efforts, but it looks like they’re on the right track

  5. The New York Times, which is worried about Atlas’ influence on the president, says Sweden’s policy has been “disastrous” and “calamitous.”

    But not cooling on Democratic Socialism.

    1. So. Let’s see here. Why is the NYT worried exactly? They ‘follow the science’ no? Is Dr. Atlas not a scientist? Or is he the wrong kind of scientist?

      Or is it they just accidentally revealed they ‘follow’ a certain kind of scientific-narrative? Look at Fauci. If the CDC dares say something against what politicians have come to embrace (ie testing), the media and politicians will turn on that too.

      So it’s pretty clear they’re less about science and have an agenda to pimp though I’m not sure exactly what they have to gain to be such pricks.

      It’s just like client change. They interview those scientists who sell their narratives.

      It’s not science. It’s propaganda.

      1. “ So. Let’s see here. Why is the NYT worried exactly? They ‘follow the science’ no? Is Dr. Atlas not a scientist? Or is he the wrong kind of scientist?”

        I think you know the answer to this.

        1. Orange Man Bad

      2. If you actually care about science, you listen to all of the scientists, not just the ones who agree with what you already believe. And you look at the data yourself and try to figure out whose theories fit the data best. But politicians prefer to find an expert who agrees with them and then insist that anyone disagreeing is not “following the science”.
        And even in the ideal situation, “the science” can’t tell you what public policy is appropriate. It can only tell you what is likely to happen, within the narrow scope of the theory. Science can’t tell us whether the economic and social effects are worthwhile sacrifices.

      3. To Democrats, science is democratic. The scientists vote and then the science is settled.

        Which is the exact opposite of how scientific progress is made. Scientific progress is made when one rogue scientist finds some new data or publishes a new theory which better fits reality, and the old-timers either begrudgingly accept it or are replaced over time by people with no ties to the earlier “consensus” theory.

      4. Exactly. It’s quite clear that this is what is happening with the whole mask mania.

        All of the science, based on the sum total of human experience with respiratory viruses like rhinovirus (common cold), coronavirus (other common colds), influenza, SARS 1 coronavirus, and MERS coronavirus, from the beginning of humanity knowing that viruses existed until March or April 2020, told us that masks worn by members of the public were not effective in preventing the transmission of these viruses. WHO, CDC, surgeon general, Fauci were all in agreement about this.

        Science is not a book of facts. Science is a process for discovering the truth. It’s not a fast process, but it’s the best we have. It’s a process designed to overcome the many hurdles presented by our human natures, like confirmation bias.

        From the beginning of COVID to the moment when Fauci claimed that the long-standing opinions of WHO, CDC, and the whole medical establishment, long before we knew what COVID was, were all something he made up to address the mask shortage because of COVID, was a few months.

        Science doesn’t shift paradigms that fast. To refute a well-supported, commonly accepted view like “masks for all do not work to slow the spread of respiratory viruses” would take time, much more than a few months. It takes time for studies to be performed, reports to be published, criticisms to be generated, revisions to be made, experiments to be repeated, more reports to be made, and for that hypothesis to eventually become a theory. Or, more commonly, for it to be thrown out, but with the information learned built upon by the next researcher to come along.

        To say that masks do not work is not anti-science. It’s the result of science. It’s anti-science to claim otherwise.

        I had a debate the other day with a guy who insinuated that I was anti-science for my mask views. He didn’t know there was such a thing as antiviral medication, and he didn’t know (and did not believe me when I told him) that mask wearing in the operating theater is meant to stop bacteria, not viruses. He pooh-poohed it when I countered his claim of “surgeons wear masks, so they must be good” with the current research on the topic, which shows pretty clearly that masks are ineffective in preventing even the bacterial infections they were intended for during surgery. Infection rates masked and unmasked are the same. The guy said he didn’t care about “some study,” presumably because it didn’t support his point of view.

        But I’m the one who is anti-science, because I am quoting scientific studies and believing the science on the topic of masks that led the CDC and WHO to say they don’t work (before COVID got politicized) more than obviously false statements by government officials. This person doesn’t even have the slightest clue about how any of the mechanics of viral reproduction work, that viruses cannot colonize like bacteria do, and he doesn’t want to. Yet he feels qualified to tell me what the science is (again, science is a process, not a book of facts) and that any failure to believe all of it is “anti-science.”

        In fact, “science” for the left has become the new religion. They treat what they consider “the science” as the unquestionable word of God, and anyone who dares question the prophets or their priests (Fauci, the media, politicians with a (D) after their name) is a heretic.

        If you know science, you know that what I described isn’t it. In actual science, there are no hard and fast facts, no incontrovertible word of God that can never be questioned. No scientist would simply believe a given statement of supposed fact because he was told it’s “science.” Taking things on faith, without question, because the priests of the church told you that this is the word of God is religion, not science.

        1. To the left, Science is not science unless it supports their beliefs. It’s similar to their definition of racism, which differs from reality. They literally speak and think in a different interpretation of language.

  6. If the goal is minimizing the death toll over the long run, it is too soon to say.

    So, if it’s too soon to say that Sweden’s approach didn’t work, then by simple inferrence, it’s too soon to say the lockdowns did.

    Which, considering the number of people who’ve lost jobs, had their lives and livelihoods crippled, and committed suicide because they’ve been locked indoors is a pretty fucked up thing to say.

    1. Not to mention the “It’s too soon.” line is a classic trope of hucksters and conmen to get dupes to continue chasing bad money with good.

      How long and hard do we all pay to find out this experiment did/didn’t work? Once we’ve paid the price is the debt settled and the knowledge held or did we just throw it all away for a trivial piece of information that won’t apply anywhere in time outside of Jan.-Feb. 2020?

      1. While Dr. Tegnell did admit he feels he should be judged in one year, I think it’s safe to say his approach worked.

        They haven’t reported a case in over a week now.

        The other part of ‘too soon’ is we talk as if we don’t know much about the virus but I think we know more than we think. Maybe we haven’t hammered down the specifics, but that’s how it is with all viruses.

        The Diamond Princess may have given us a lot of what we need to know and our experiences seem to fall in line with the findings there.

        1. One of the things that most impressed me about Dr. Tegnell is that he admits what he doesn’t know. Pretty sad that that is a strange and unique thing in all this. All we get is idiots pretending they aren’t just making shit up as they go along. Fucking disgusting. We have all been subjected to a huge and poorly conceived medical experiment without consent.

          1. My favorite was the bit about how they just knew that this novel, unknown virus definitely does not spread by airborne means (aerosols). We know nothing about the virus, but we do know that it’s somehow different than every other respiratory virus we know. We know that the reason that colds and flu are so damned contagious is that they are able to spread by aerosol, and by all accounts, COVID is more contagious than both of those. Yet we’re sure COVID is all about the respiratory droplets.

      2. We’ve already bought what it was government was selling. We just haven’t gotten the bill yet.

    2. The only fact we try know is how retarded it was to put covid patients into nursing homes.

      1. Of course the supporting data of how retarded they were in NY won’t be available to the justice department until AFTER election day. If they didn’t have data, how come Cuomo keeps saying he follows the science…

  7. Great. Now normalize the deaths per million by age demographics.

    1. Exactly.

      Those who objected to Sweden’s approach (or US States that had less restrictions) weren’t claiming initially that the approach would lead to “somewhat” higher death rates; they were claiming it would lead to out and out catastrophe. It’s clear that it didn’t.

  8. Sweden is without question rational.

    As for its neighbours they all had different degrees of lockdowns but have lifted them san masks including Holland.

    It’s so refreshing to hear someone on the continent speak like Dr. Atlas.

    It’s fine to look at the statistics, but it’s not a competition. Sweden admitted errors with nursing homes which accounted for 80% of the deaths. The point is they did it by respecting citizens, not psychologically traumatizing them or with harsh lockdowns. I think many of us would accept these measures.

    I would trade Dr. Tam for Dr. Tegnell any day.

    You can’t trust a public health official who uses fricken emojis in their twitter messages.

    1. “ The point is they did it by respecting citizens, not psychologically traumatizing them or with harsh lockdowns.”


      While talking with my wife recently about this, I’m convinced we’re all going to have some form of psychological trauma from all of this big government bullshit.

      1. The psychological damage is done. Adults have passed on there irrational fears to there children. Schools are the worst culprit as they refuse to open in any normal capacity, teachers sitting behind plexiglass and little kids wearing masks…this psychological disaster will linger for years to come, life as we once knew it may never return..

        1. “…Adults have passed on there irrational fears to there children…”

          TV ads are a horrible proxy, but the number of kids smiling as they put that face-diaper on is depressing…

        2. This is my concern. Those of us who are adults lived through all of our formative years without every random stranger being turned from an actual person into a faceless (literally) threat.

          It’s creepy as hell and really stupid too, but those of us who have been around a while recognize that this whole situation is batshit crazy. Kids don’t have that filter… they’re programmed to accept everything they experience during childhood as normal. It’s a necessary part of the process of maturation for them to learn from their elders, and we adults are collectively failing them, badly, with this thing.

  9. Sweden’s policy has been “disastrous” and “calamitous.”

    If only they had followed the New York model.

    1. This needs to be zeroed in on and Sullum touches on this.

      If not their way, then who?

      Australia? New York? The UK? Spain?

      Sweden’s measures, as Sullum correctly points out, wasn’t a pure open-policy but a skillful hybrid of Holland, Norway and Denmark. I don’t know if those countries moved to isolate nursing homes though.

      And it’s worth mentioning that while it’s tempting to compare Nordic counties because of their geography, there are notable cultural, demographic and geographic differences between Sweden and Norway that make a comparison tricky.

      Sweden in some ways is better suited to be compared to places like here in Quebec or Western countries.


      Sweden has a lower death rate than Quebec and we have mask mandates and our leaders just threatened us with another lockdown if we don’t behave.

      Therein lies the difference for me. Sweden doesn’t talk to its citizens like retards.

      1. Sweden doesn’t talk to its citizens like retards slaves.

        You don’t punish retards for not doing what you say and even if you do, it doesn’t make them less retarded and/or more likely to do what you say next time.

        1. I stand corrected.

      2. There was also a Reason article several months ago that compared health care system differences between Sweden and Norway.
        Short version … Norway significantly and structurally undercounts deaths by COVID

  10. lockdowns reduce virus transmission and deaths, at least in the short term

    Maybe. That was the whole purpose behind “flatten the curve.” That was back when the response was semi-rational. But prolonged lockdown stops working at some point. Eventually, the virus WILL spread. It will spread quickly or slowly, but it will spread until herd immunity is reached, whether that’s naturally or by vaccination.

    1. That’s the part that government refuses to acknowledge.

      A virus will virus. It will move quickly or slowly, but it will move. Anyone who believes that lockdowns will stop the virus is a fucking fool. All it does is draw out the pain.

  11. Mr. Sullum is being disingenuous. Unlike most politicians, Sweden admitted to having made mistakes, such as not protecting nursing home patients early on. The virus contributed to their death toll of what was it, 576/million.

    However, if I recall, Sweden has 11 million inhabitants. So a little less than 6000 deaths is not very exciting. This is another example of journalists taking numbers out of proportion. The virus burned through that early, most vulnerable population, after which it applied Farr’s Law to itself, as every epidemic and pandemic will.

    Not only that, Sweden didn’t selfdestruct nor self-isolate leading to much less second order effects such as suicide and delayed chemo. It also isn’t Swedish fault that the most vulnerable Africans and Indians are dying en masse. Numbers without context.

    And journalists are surprised they’re disliked as much as politicians. “Flat Earth News” by Nick Davies ought to be mandatory reading in journalism school.

    1. I don;t think you read the article or you don’t understand what disingenuous means. Or you just have poor reading comprehension. The author covered Your first two paragraphs are certainly covered by the author. The first almost verbatim.

      1. You don’t seem to comprehend my reply. And I genuinely like Jacob Sullum’s writing, especially his reporting on drug policy. My reading skills are fine thank you, Master’s in Science.

  12. “If Sweden manages to avoid that outcome, its approach may not look so calamitous after all.”

    In other words, if Sweden’s approach doesn’t prove to be calamitous, it won’t be calamitous. You can toss out the hedge words “may” and “look so”, because all you’re doing is stating a tautology. I agree that the Times is reflexively anti-Trump, but that’s a separate issue.

  13. The US didn’t do a poor job of protecting people in nursing homes, New York and other Democratic run states did, forcing sick people into them.

    OTOH, places like Florida did a pretty good job.

    1. Yes in FL, I was part of a FEMA-State team that went into our nursing homes. We tested everyone & separated residents. Positives into quarantine areas with separate staffing. In south FL Miami/Dade many Of the elderly were living in private residences & didn’t isolate as neede.

    2. “although Sweden, like the United States, initially did a poor job of protecting nursing home residents from COVID-19.”

      Yeah, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are ‘the United States’.

      Remember that New York forced old people with covid into nursing homes, then lied about it, then lied about whether or not they were nursing home deaths.

      Recall that Michigan actually placed even YOUNG people with covid (people in their 20’s and 30’s) into nursing homes if they didn’t require intensive care.

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  15. “It is too soon to tell” should preface every declarative piece.

  16. This is a good article on a topic that needed covering.

    This should be the fourth or fifth in a series. There is a lot not covered, despite the depth of the article.

    Sweden and its neighbors have cultural similarities. But their proximity to large population centers is different. Their density is different.

    Hers immunity is another area that needs exploration. When we use that term, we are referring to and inability of the virus to spread in the community at all. A protection for vulnerable people. . But in this case the important factor is the rate of spread. If 20% or 10% of the population have Immunity, what does that do to the rate of spread? Does it keep it linear instead of letting it go exponential? What does that do to the problem of overwhelming hospitals?

    Remember how important that was? That was the entire point of all of the mitigation efforts.

    Thank you for touching on an issue that the media writ large in the United States completely dropped. In their desperate fervor to get someone to say something negative about president trump, they completely forgot to cover any aspect of this pandemic other then how can we make it embarrassing for the president.The public has not been well served by the fourth estate because of this.

    1. “ In their desperate fervor to get someone to say something negative about president trump, they completely forgot to cover any aspect of this pandemic other then how can we make it embarrassing for the president.The public has not been well served by the fourth estate because of this.”

      The media gonna media. And you’re right. In their lust to make T look bad, they’ve shat the bed. I’m now completely right and justified in believing the media has no fucking shame. If they did, they’d stop their madness. They’ve figuratively come over uninvited, shit on the living room floor, then complained about the stink.

      Fuck the media.

  17. What strikes me is that the deaths/1MM population from Covid-19 are nearly the same for the US (573) and Sweden (576). If Sweden is rational…aren’t we [using the deaths/1MM metric]?

    I think I would like to see how the fall goes before rendering a final judgment.

    1. No, because of the collateral damage done in the process. Unless deaths via CV are the ONLY metric for measuring success, which in the real world is disingenuous at best.

      Suicides up dramatically? Check.
      Mass unemployment? Check.
      Businesses going under everywhere? Check.
      Families locked up for months? Check.
      Massive spread of big government? Check.

      I could go on for a long time with this. These are things that are the result of our track. Sweden did not suffer those to anywhere near the extent.

      We threw the baby out with the bath water.

      1. Not just mass unemployment, but mass underemployment too.

        As for throwing out the baby with the bath water, that is the exact sign I made and carried at the open Ohio protests in April. Got my picture taken by a lot of credentialed media members, but only showed up in two media outlets that I saw (a Columbus Dispatch video and a Dayton-area photo gallery). I think the message of the sign was too real for public consumption.

        1. I wonder why it would bother the media’s viewership.

          From what I gather, throwing babies out is one of the things they do.

      2. Plus, the U.S. is much larger and varied. 50 states spanning from coast to coast plus Alaska and Hawaii. Some states are far worse than Sweden, some far better. A one-to-one, U.S. to Sweden, comparison and aggregates like 573-6/million are meaningless in this context.

        1. Why do you think that is the case? = A one-to-one, U.S. to Sweden, comparison and aggregates like 573-6/million are meaningless in this context.

          Doesn’t the metric of deaths/1MM population equalize the result? I mean, statistically that is why they have the metric in the first place, right? To compare two disparate populations?

      3. Wouldn’t we also need to know more about the deaths of Sweden also, to make that judgment = suicides up (this article does not present that data). Just to be clear, I agree with your checklist.

        Where I am less clear is where Sweden lands on that same checklist. This article doesn’t tell me that.

        Can it be possible that both Sweden and the United States followed perfectly rational courses of action, given their set of circumstances? I am not asking to be a smartass, I am asking you if you think that is possible – both things can be true.

      4. Rampaging crazy people in Portland and elsewhere, driven mad by the lockdowns? Check.

        1. When you put the entire populace in prison, expect prison riots.

  18. lockdowns may change the timing of deaths without reducing the total.


    That was the entire point of “flattening the curve”. Those of us with a memory longer than 5 days remember this and recognize just how far the goalposts have been moved.

  19. Whatever success Sweden had it was in part due to a population that was comfortable with the government’s decisions and a willingness to abide by government recommendations. A Swede is not worried about health care or sick leave when ill. A Swede knows the government will assist them in child care, education and retirement. The Swede’s also followed they government recommendation. The problem I have will all the analyses of Sweden is that the idea we don’t want to be like Sweden except for avoiding the lockdowns.

    1. Moderation4ever
      September.2.2020 at 7:12 pm
      “…A Swede is not worried about health care or sick leave when ill…”

      Fuck off and die, slaver.

    2. “Give me the lash!” “Thank you sir. Can I have another?”

    3. I know I’ve been told repeatedly that America could never mimic Scandinavian countries because our cultures were too different.

      1. I know I’ve been told repeatedly that America could never mimic Scandinavian countries because our cultures were too different.

        You misunderstood. We can certainly adopt the same policies as Scandinavian countries, but people like you strenuously object.

        For starters, Scandinavian countries impose massive income taxes on median income earners. They also have voter identification, a national ID card, and strong restrictions on abortion after 18 weeks, among many other policies. There are no public sector unions and balances its budget. On the other hand, financial services, business transactions, and investments are less regulated and government controlled than in the US.

        It’s Democrats and progressives who strenuously object to many of the Scandinavian policies. Many conservatives would easily go along with the Scandinavian model. After all, the Scandinavian social welfare state originated with conservatives, not socialists.

        1. I think it is more than progressives who object. When Senator Bernie Sanders talked about using the Scandinavian models we hear objections on the evils of socialism. While Swedish middle class does pay higher taxes, there is lower wealth inequality in Sweden making the middle class the best source of government revenue. This is not true in other countries including the US where GINA coefficient is over 10 points higher, necessitating higher taxes on wealthier individuals. In addition many of the government programs like health care are targeted at the middle class. Sweden also has environmental policies putting “sustainability” forward.

        2. And private sector unions have a good relationship with private owners. They understand where their bread and butter derives. Makes no sense to pummel business with ‘free goodies’ if it threatens the business that provides a life for people.

          Our unions don’t think this way.

  20. Not only was it rational, it’s the road the entire world will end up taking, because virus gonna virus. Granted, our numbers will be a little worse than Sweden in the end because some of our “leaders” actively killed their citizens. (Looks like about twice as many as would have died normally?)

  21. Sweden’s was the only RATIOnal approach.

    What the US did, especially a few states, is declare war on its people.

    The only rational response from us, as the people, is to mount some politician and technocrat heads on pikes to serve as examples.

    1. You probably said the same thing when Michelle Obama tried to get kids to eat vegetables.

      With these incredibly hysterical overreactions to minor emergency measures, you’re a flapping spasm of redneck rage untempered by modern emotional coping mechanisms combined with an ostentatious display of white privilege that can only come with a complaint so minor and a response so indignant.

      1. Massive economic disruptions and millions of excess deaths are “minor emergency measures”?

        As for Michelle, her nutritional program wasn’t her problem; her racism, self aggrandizement, and ideology were.

      2. >You probably said the same thing when Michelle Obama tried to get kids to eat vegetables.

        Leave up to you Tony to conflate Big Mike forcing black kids to eat vegetables because of Food Deserts to Sweden’s response to the Wuhan virus.

  22. 570 people died, 999,430 people got dry dogged by the government boot.

    1. Not entirely accurate. The politicians are still living their lives (see Pelosi, mayor of Philadelphia, etc.).

  23. Sweden doesn’t seem to be counting like everyone else is.

    “ Hide the epidemic’s real death toll by “officially” counting only victims that were tested and “verified” at the laboratories you have arranged a deal with. Instead of counting all Covid-19 deaths, for instance, leave out those Covid-19 deaths occurring in private and nursing homes and only include those occurring in hospital settings. Deaths occurring in in private and nursing homes in the community are not included in the statistics presented by the Swedish Public Health Agency.”

    1. Not really interested in the comments of a Nazi who creams his jeans at the thought of killing Jews and then lying about it.
      Fuck off, Nazi scum

      1. You obviously are interested in what I say, you are a troll.

        Your childish behaviour says everything about you.

        You’re a waste of skin.

        1. Not really interested in the comments of a Nazi who creams his jeans at the thought of killing Jews and then lying about it.
          Fuck off, Nazi scum

          1. How’s that working for you dimwit?

      2. Elaborate. How do you know who’s a Nazi online?

  24. I wonder more and more if the lack of socialization/soft exposure will lead us to losing herd immunity for other (non-covid) diseases.

    1. Well spend the next twelve years studying it. You will probably end up with the same question,

  25. Oh Scott Atlas MD. I knew I recognized the name.

    He is that guy. I know his book. Excellent.

    Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain and Spine (1990 1st ed.; 1996; 2002; 2008; 2016)

    The guy really wrote the classic text on neuro MRI. This was and still is the Bible of neuro MR. I am not kidding. This is not an easy field of medicine.

    I have no idea why he gave that up and went into politics. Was he bored? Who knows.

    1. Smart doctors eventually realize that they need to branch out if they want a seat at the grown-up’s table, instead of having PB&J with the little kids.

  26. “If the goal is minimizing the death toll over the long run, it is too soon to say.”

    If the goal is preventing economic melt-down, the answer is obvious.

    1. Winner winner!

  27. “It doesn’t really matter how many [COVID-19] cases” we have, Atlas said on Fox News in July, when newly identified infections were surging, primarily among younger, healthier people. “It only matters who gets the cases, because we know the infection fatality rate for people under 70 is 0.04 percent….The cases themselves should not be and were never the focus. It’s only the tragic consequences of the cases.”

    This guy gets it

    1. But when the actual goal is to extend the “emergency” and the dictator powers which come with them we move goal posts

    2. This was obvious months ago. Ironically, the protests might have been exactly what we needed to expose younger people at a higher ratio than having it burn through the population randomly.

  28. Doesn’t seems like the right Process

  29. It may be too soon to judge the long-term outcomes, but it’s certainly too late for the dead. This Atlas guy was hired by Trump to tell Trump the same deadly ill-informed talking points about herd immunity he was getting from people like Atlas in FOX News.

    It saddens me that getting even one libertarian to consider this a poor use of judgment would be an hours-long debate over bullshit.

    No vaccine herd immunity means millions of deaths and the worst possible outcome, minus a few oldies I guess you want to lick away until they die. You’re trying to sell the worst possible outcome and calling it a win. It has balls even for Republicans.

    1. It may be too soon to judge the long-term outcomes, but it’s certainly too late for the dead.

      You have yet to explain what Trump should have done differently.

      It saddens me that getting even one libertarian to consider this a poor use of judgment would be an hours-long debate over bullshit.

      You have yet to explain what Trump should have done differently.

      1. You touched on something I have often asked, but no one seems to want to really answer with any specificity: What would you have done differently than what POTUS Trump did? And how would you have known, with the facts as they were at that point in time, to act differently?

        1. Oh they’ll say wear masks. I mean people are just idiots. Thats demented Joe’s solution

          1. And even Joe has walked back from his promise of a national mandate.

      2. Listen to CDC recommendations and shut his fat stupid face? That would be an infinite improvement.

        1. But when the CDC says something shit heads like you don’t like you react like petulant children. Like they did when they said no need to test asymptomatic people.

          Look at how that criminal Cuomo REACTED.

          Apparently, Trump got to the CDC. And then you say, others are conspiratorial.

          99.85% survival rate.

          This is the hill we’re dying on.

          1. Literally millions of dead on that hill if you had your way.

            1. Lol.

              It’s ok to take off the mask to allow for some oxygen back in.

        2. I listen to the CDC and WHO recommendations from March 2020 and prior. That was based on actual science. After that, it was based on politics.

    2. Did you miss the part where there is no significant correlation between severity of lockdowns and death rates? Lots of countries that did everything you think we should do have worse death rates than Sweden or the US. You are assuming that these things, which have never been tried before, are effective and proportional. THat is far from given.

      1. At least we’ve moved beyond blaming the whole thing on Cuomo.

        South Korea had its first case the same day as the US. Are you telling me you think they are in as bad a shape as the US?

        1. No, I’m saying that the lockdowns and social distancing are likely not the main factor in the differences between outcomes in different countries or states. This is based on real data. There is very little correlation between severity of lockdowns and covid mortality outcomes. So stop acting like it’s a given that lockdowns, masks, etc. work. The data just isn’t there to make a firm conclusion. And there is a lot of evidence suggesting that it all does very little except maybe delay things a bit. Weather and humidity probably has a greater effect.

      2. The lockdowns are a failure because they’re illogical.

        For one thing, it’s premised, from what I can tell, on the notion healthy asymptomatic people spread it and OMFG kill old people and save every life!

        But it’s unclear exactly to what degree they spread it. The Diamond Princess incident indicates the virus spread to 20% of the ship. It sounds like we ca extrapolate that to the general population. In other words, if a fair assertion, not very much.

        And it’s impossibly stupid to base a policy on wanting to save every life. If this continues, at best it’s a Pyrrhic victory. I got some good news and I’ve got some bad news. We saved a save! But we burned the economy to the ground.

        Moreover, the virus simply preys on the weak and vulnerable. So while people are in lockdown the virus spreads to that demographic.

        There’s literally no correlation to be made.

        But above all, the reason why lockdowns are illogical and were condemned to failure was because it was based on a faulty model from Imperial College.

        It’s literally rooted in panic and not science.

        Have you ever seen something turn out well that was based on panic?

        In fact, it’s the opposite.

        Why would we think otherwise here?

        Just look at the social and economic destruction due to its unintended consequences.

        Neil Ferguson should be prosecuted in my view. And all public health officials who jumped on this wagon and continue to stay on it, should resign or be fired. The ones who threaten more lockdowns despite knowing its negative outcomes and trade-offs should also be prosecuted.

        No excuse for it.

    3. Tony. Stay home then. What can we say?

    4. The worst possible outcome is what we have now — no vaccine, no herd immunity, destroyed economy, massive government debt addition.

      1. I agree, Trump has managed this pretty much as terribly as a toddler with a magic marker would be expected to.

        1. And much better than Cuomo, Newsom, Whitmer, Hillary Clinton, or Biden did or would have done.

    5. So, instead of listening to a brilliant doctor and believing our own lying eyes, we should listen to you, the NYT, and Joe Biden.

  30. How did that work out? Sweden’s overall COVID-19 numbers look pretty bad. According to Worldometer’s tallies, Sweden so far has seen 576 COVID-19 deaths per 1 million people, which is much higher than the rates in three neighboring countries that imposed more sweeping restrictions on social and economic activity

    This kind of comparison is nonsense. The percentage of the population necessary for herd immunity is independent of restrictions, so all restrictions do is spread out the same number of cases over a longer time. Sweden simply concentrated its cases into a shorter time period. Long term, there is no significant benefit from restrictions.

    But sweeping restrictions have massive costs and they kill people. US COVID-related restrictions will likely kill many more people than will die from COVID.

  31. A lung ablation reduce cancer risk by 50%.

  32. Oh Jacob the non-scientist,

    When a variable , lock downs, doesn’t have a correlation to the death toll, some countries did worse some did better, then its a “don’t care”. Not a factor.

    One problem with all of this analysis is that the data used for the analysis has been corrupted and politicized.

    When you start out saying anyone who dies “with Covid died of Covid” your data is garbage.

    So Reason a alleged libertarian site is on the fence whether folks should choose for themselves (Sweden) or be forced into a gov’t lockdown.

    1. Yeah, there is a big assumption that the degree of lockdown or social distancing is a significant factor in the death rates. I don’t think the data supports that assumption at all.

    2. Because of stop lights or laws against drunk driving. The reason given for the restrictions is that it prevents harm to others, not to you.

      You can argue about what is reasonable in that context. A lot of this is not proven science but that is the reason for the fence sitting.

      People do cherry pick what they want to believe. Sweden they claim is no worse although they forget that there are restrictions on some things. They forget about New Zealand which had a strict quarantine early on and achieved 0% transmission.

    3. Look this is a respiratory transmitted illness. To say that close contact does not transmit the virus is absurd. It is exactly how it works, Everything we know for over a century proves it does. This is not a theory. This goes back to Joseph Lister.

      And Covid deaths are only counted when they are listed by the attending physician as the primary cause.

      1. and we are all, collectively, the king of Siam.

  33. Unless you think there is going to be a vaccine in the next few months, I don’t see how Sweden’s approach could possibly be worse than the harsh lockdown approach. If the lockdowns were effective (which is a big “if”), then they have just moved the problem down the road a bit.
    And, of course, any analysis that looks at covid deaths and not the social and economic destruction wrought by forced shutdowns is worthless. There is no doubt that the effects of government mandates are shortening many people’s lives.

  34. Yes, barring rapid arrival of a well functioning vaccine all of our efforts have only served to delay the inevitable (time to herd immunity) while prolonging the social, psychological, and economic hardship.

    The disease becomes a limited problem once enough people have been exposed sufficient to form an immune response such that further person to person transmission becomes substantially reduced – ie. herd immunity. Pictured graphically this is represented by the area under the curve of a graph of disease incidence (ideally confirmed via antibody testing – since positive immune response is mostly what matters.) So a flatter curve inevitably means a prolonged one as well.

    1. You are never going to get herd immunity until you have an effective vaccine and perhaps not even then. Given current attitudes toward any vaccine I doubt enough people will take it. Natural herd immunity hardly ever happens. With this virus it is more infectious than influenza and less than measles. They are all respiratory transmitted viruses. The only thing holding measles back is vaccination.

      A good deal of the problem with this is human behavior. There is a lot of disinformation going on. It has also become politicized which only makes things worse. Look at this 6% thing going around now. A Q conspiracy theory which is “going viral”.

      I used to play a game where you could be the virus and try to wipe out humanity. One of the things you could add on with your points was disinformation and panic. I think you can’t get the game anymore or they changed it.

      1. I don’t blame people for being skeptical. For years it was explained how long it takes for vaccine trials to happen in order to ensure safety and now one is being rushed. For some that’s a red flag – especially for a coronavirus.

        Another issue at play is the H1N1 vaccine in 2009 was a disaster.

        As for politicization, well, whose fault is that? And the 6% thing is not exactly hard to parse. It doesn’t surprise me one bit.

        1. If a virus like this coronavirus kills off the most vulnerable (elderly and those with underlying conditions) first, and causes fewer serious cases in the young and healthier, eventually it will cease to be a major problem. It is very sad that we have lost so many as we have, but keeping everyone locked up until a vaccine is available for months to a year or more, when many of those who have died would probably die of something else, is not going to make things better in the short or long term.

          1. More information is coming out about long-term damage even in children.

            And what if it were worse? What if it killed the young but not the old? Would quarantines be OK then?

            I’m just gonna kind of tilt my head at the suggestion that all of the old and unhealthy are expendable. Coming from libertarians too. It’s just, well, there it is.

            1. They are dying from a natural disease. It’s not whether they are “expendable”. It’s how life works. You get old or sick and then you die from something. Thousands of people die from other things every day. Are we considering all of those people expendable because we don’t take every possible action to save every one of those lives? The narrow focus on this one cause of death is making people stupid.

              And quarantining healthy people is never acceptable.

              1. A major reason this disease is difficult is because asymptomatic people spread it. If you don’t want to take basic safety measures to contain the disease, that is the trade-off you are asking for when you call to simply sacrifice the old to the stock market. It better be better than “I don’t wanna.”

                1. Tony there is point in arguing with these people. They don’t give a shit.

                  1. Except that Sweden’s death rate is not so much different from ours and they did advise people especially the elderly to stay in, but they did not lock down. I never said anyone is expendable, thank you. What actually caused most of the early deaths and contagion was when NY state ordered nursing homes to take COVID patients, so if anyone thought old folks are expendable, it’s Andrew Cuomo…I agree also that precautions like wearing masks in enclosed public places should be encouraged.

                    1. “when many of those who have died would probably die of something else, “

                      Amounts to the same thing. It is flipping it off as no big deal.

                    2. I am not flipping off anything and said that they needed to have isolated vulnerable patients earlier so they would not die of COVID, but apparently you insist on projecting your view that libertarians are heartless monsters. Guess what? All single payer systems ration healthcare so that younger patients are favored over the elderly.

                  2. If you choose to save your 90 y/o grandmama, vote Biden.
                    If you want your kids to have a future, vote Trump.
                    Each to their own. Don’t pass judgements.

                2. It won’t help them. If you bend down the death rate by the same amount you bend down the rate of acquisition of herd immunity, all you do is change the date on the death certificate. If you “protect” everyone, you protect no one.

                  The idea that asymptomatic people are anything more than trivial spreaders is far from proven. It’s propaganda, all part of the effort to turn every person you meet on the street into a faceless, scary threat. Keep people scared and they’re putty in your hands.

                  Keeping the economy going is not about the damned stock market. Poverty kills people. Unemployment kills people. Stress kills people. The lockdowns resulted in a 13x increase in the rate of suicide in one California district, and it’s probably like that everywhere. Killing the economy kills people, while all the lockdowns, masks, forced closures, etc., in the world don’t save anyone. They just change the date on the death certificate, and that delay of a few months comes at a very steep price in deaths from non-COVID causes (which we’re not supposed to care about now, but they still matter to some of us).

            2. “More information is coming out about long-term damage even in children.”

              Cite request.

              As it stands, influenza remains the biggest threat to children.

            3. It’s not whether people are expendable it’s how much we should weigh the damage done from COVID vs. the damage done from all the shutdowns and quarantine.

              Everything has a cost and a benefit – those costs and benefits should be weighed rationally to come up with an optimum solution.

              The approach of minimizing COVID deaths at all costs leads to policies which are not optimum for the long-term well being of everyone.

      2. You aren’t going to get total immunity, even with a vaccine, I don’t think. But we will get to a point where transmission rates are very low and it’s just another flu like illness that people get sometimes. I think that’s what most people mean when they say “herd immunity”. And I think that’s plenty good enough. You can’t save everyone from everything.

        1. It is a misuse of the term. It has become another throwaway line.

        2. Herd immunity is when the resistance of a given populace is such that R0 is <1. In that case, the disease will decline to irrelevance by itself. It does not need to be total immunity for this to occur… as long as the result is R0 below 1, it is achieved.

  35. HERE► Brilliant article. I had wondered how future generations would view the mind boggling hysteria that is currently gripping the whole world, especially Europe and the USA. We look back at past centurhysteria can be – like a stampede. Thought the writer was a historian, his analysis is so sharpies and wonder how they could have been so stupid. I guess it shows how powerful mass . He has seen through the Emperor’s new clothes!Check my site.

  36. The progs are now realizing, perhaps too late, that the lockdowns and social distancing are going to screw them come Election Day because they can’t hold big campaign events or go door to door. Then you have lots of people out of work because of the lockdowns who are not going to vote for the candidates that support them.

  37. If the goal is to not add a self-inflicted economic crisis on top of a health crisis, Sweden wins big time. Particularly if the death rate is the same in the long run with and without the lockdowns.

  38. Absolutely amazing no deaths in Sweden except among the elderly and very elderly (90+)

  39. “if the goal is minimizing total COVID-19 deaths”

    That’s an irrational goal. That’s the whole problem with the response of most the media pundits and liberal government officials.

    A rational goal would be minimizing COVID-19’s total negative impact on humanity. That includes minimizing deaths but also minimizing the many, many impacts of the shutdowns – on the economy, non-COVID health issues, etc.

  40. Good article. Sweden was perfectly rational. They correctly predicted C19 would be a Category 2 pandemic and followed the guidelines accordingly. The rest of the world incorrectly anticipated a true Cat 5 pandemic. Unfortunately, even with updated data we’re not re-calibrating. Much of the policies and actions today are based on psychological placation of a panicked populace and, unfortunately, politics.

    It correctly points out there is growing evidence 40% to 60% of the population probably already have C19 immunity through T-Cells. Likely from exposure to other Corona-viruses; so we may already be much further along the path to immunity than thought. This would explain why so many are completely asymptomatic.

    “Although antibody studies suggest…” This is still batted around too much without explanation that antibodies disappear after a few months anyway. B-cells reproduce antibodies if necessary.

  41. How is the content anything new? Most Trumptard knew this back in March, that “the cure is deadlier than the disease”. But it will take another 5 years for the smart progressives to figure this one out after they obtain their masters in NFLX.

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