Responsible Individuals, Not Lockdowns, Will Beat the Coronavirus

It's too bad that Trump has discouraged them.


Coronavirus is back with a vengeance. After dwindling over the summer, new cases are rising in many countries and reached a record high this week in America. France and Germany are reinstating lockdowns. But however strong the case may have been for the extreme measures of the spring, when the world was flying blind in the face of this nasty virus, lockdowns are neither workable nor desirable in America at this stage.

Does that mean we should throw caution to the wind and return to business as usual, as President Donald Trump seems to be suggesting? Not really. Our best bet at this stage is encouraging millions and millions of adaptations at the individual level that will let life resume, albeit not in a "normal" way. This approach is best visualized by precisely the thing President Donald Trump panned in the second debate: "plexiglass cubes" in restaurants. "Are you going to sit there in a cubicle wrapped around in plastic?" he chided. Yes.

Should Trump get re-elected, we should do our best to ignore him. If Joe Biden wins on Tuesday, he should wholeheartedly back such adaptive responses, staking out a middle ground between doing nothing and putting everyone under lock and key.

If there is any epidemiological rationale for President Trump's "don't let this dominate your life" and go-about-business-as-usual approach, it is that social distancing measures diminish exposure to the virus and therefore come in the way of achieving population-wide herd immunity—a critical mass of people developing resistance and forming a firewall against disease spread.

But this rationale is flawed. No one really knows what percentage of the population would have to become infected to get to herd immunity. Reaching that point might involve an unacceptably high death and sickness rate. It's not even clear herd immunity can be achieved without a vaccine.

Sweden is the closest real-life example of this approach. That Nordic country went maverick and rejected radical shutdowns. It opted only to ban large gatherings while closing universities and high schools. It also urged people to work from home to the extent possible. Otherwise bars, restaurants, primary schools, and retail shops stayed open.

Supporters of the model claim that this allowed Sweden to avoid economic devastation while maintaining a death toll in the European middle—between the U.K.'s high and Denmark's low. But that's misleading, because Sweden's 576.25 deaths per million fatality rate is much closer to England's 682 deaths per million (almost on par with America's 690 per million) than Denmark's 122.88—even though Sweden's population density is only 1/6th that of Denmark's. (Norway, whose population density is similar to Sweden's, has an even lower 52.36 per million death rate.)

Although Sweden's infection and death rate has now tapered off and is in line with the rest of Europe's, that doesn't mean it got things right. Its frontloading of deaths would make sense if it meant saving more lives later. But given that at this stage a vaccine within a year seems likely and therapeutics keep improving, such a strategy, as George Mason University's Tyler Cowen points out, "is akin to charging the hill and taking casualties two days before the end of World War I."

The failure of Sweden's herd immunity strategy doesn't mean that France and Germany's new lockdowns are a rational approach either. France has imposed a national shelter-in-place order requiring people to stay at home. Germany has shut down not just theaters and bars but also all hotels.

Prior to this pandemic, lockdowns had never been deployed, not even during the Spanish flu. They were no part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's pandemic response planning—no doubt because planners intuitively understood that such drastic steps would impose massive economic and health costs of their own. And they have.

Indeed, unemployment in America rose higher in three months of COVID-19 than two years of the Great Recession, with 14 million Americans losing their jobs. Meanwhile, whatever the flaws of the Great Barrington Declaration, a controversial statement signed by 9,000 epidemiologists, economists, and other experts opposing lockdowns, it is dead right that such policies will result in lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings, and deteriorating mental health —all of which will result in more deaths and worse health outcomes that public health stats won't capture for a year. Inadequate tuberculosis treatment alone could cause an estimated 400,000 deaths worldwide.

The lockdowns may have made sense in the spring, when we had very little idea what we were up against and every interaction seemed fraught. But now it is possible to separate relatively dangerous from relatively innocuous activities—and avoid the former until entrepreneurs can come up with innovative business models that make it possible to engage in them safely, precisely the kind of adaptation that hunker-down orders thwart.

To be sure, there might be no business model that could rescue some industries. Contrast, for example, movie theaters with restaurants.

At this stage, the government couldn't pay people to go to the movies (and shouldn't try), because everyone knows that huddling with strangers in a dark, enclosed space for two hours is asking for trouble. Regal Theaters has permanently closed its doors, and AMC, the country's biggest theater chain, is on the verge of following suit.

But the restaurant industry found a way to hang on. Many eateries shifted their operations outdoors or switched to takeout and implemented other safe practices. They mandated masks and switched to disposable or scannable menus to minimize contact. Some even check patrons' temperatures before allowing them in. The industry still experienced a 27 percent loss of business, but the real challenge will be in winter when outside dining becomes difficult in much of northern U.S. Restaurants then will have to scramble and experiment with all kinds of new strategies, including plexiglass cubicles, to remain in business.

Political leaders who pan such innovations are just as unhelpful as government lockdowns. There is enough public awareness to make a more laissez-faire approach to coronavirus workable, provided that the powers-that-be don't actively lead people astray—by encouraging them to attend super-spreading events, for example, or ditching masks.

To get through the pandemic, America needs to encourage personal responsibility and private initiative. Top-down diktats are suboptimal. Silly leaders are even worse.

A version of this column originally appeared in The Week.

NEXT: A Federal Judge Just Blocked a Republican Effort To Disqualify 127,000 Votes in Texas

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  1. Stop voting for democrats.

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  2. “responsible-individuals-not-lockdowns-will-beat-the-coronavirus”

    Sigh. Somebody should tell Shikha that Democrats are unlikely to respect your personal freedom and liberty. Plenty of evidence in NY, NJ, MI, CA, PA, etc. But it’s Trump that is wrong and he’s the bad guy.

    Also, great analysis about Sweden’s “failure”. Europe is blowing up with second wave of cases and Sweden isn’t seeing any of it. Sweden’s higher death rate than Norway is related to their poor job of handling nursing homes. They even admitted as much. If you exclude those folks, their death rate is significantly lower and more in-line with Norway and Denmark.

      1. Us Georgians are too.

        We eat at restaurants, our kids go to school, we dont wear masks, and get together when we want with who we want.

        Democrats are tyrants.

        1. I quit working at shop rite and now I make $65-85 per/h. How? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on asd something new after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now, I couldn’t be happier So i try use.
          Here’s what I do…….WORK 24

    1. Also the light flu season for Sweden in the previous couple of years compared to Denmark and Norway, meant a lot of dry tinder got swept away in Sweden. The severity of previous flu seasons has nearly perfect correlation with deaths during C19 for Europe.

    2. Norway and Denmark also count ‘of covid’ and not ‘with covid’ like Sweden does. Right there that accounts for the difference.

    3. If the first lockdown worked, why do we need a second one? And if the first lockdown *didnt* work, then why would another one work? What a joy it is when I stumble upon media literate individuals who can tell when what they are reading is Left wing propaganda. Bravo. The entire Left wing marxist Criminal empire from murderous Governors to their Legacy Media mouthpieces are being exposed for what they are. Once the truth is seen it can’t be unseen. They use our good nature’s against. Just because it’s called REASON does not make it reasonable. There’s no argument for lockdown period.. This was always about the Election and vote by mail.

  3. Only protests can stop the ‘rona.

    1. yup, a handful of Trump rallies led to 30,000 positive test cases, but millions of people taking to the streets in close proximity and shouting have been traced to 0 cases so far.

  4. Yeah, Trump has. Sure.

    Not the state governments. Not all you motherfuckers – yes you Dahlmia – that kept bitching because the Federal government wasn’t doing enough or doing the wrong things.

    All Trump.


    1. You go ahead and vote for Harris and see how that works out for you.

      1. Keep the Trump Tears coming. They nourish my soul.

        1. “Trump Tears”

          Is that what you call your child porn collection?

  5. Oh shit. Shikha science story.

    1. With a literal ‘to be sure’ in the middle. It’s like whomever’s running Reason’s narrative-generating software just ticked off all the author’s names in the ‘tone settings’ menu and they just decided to put Shikha’s name at the top of the resulting mess.

  6. “Although Sweden’s infection and death rate has now tapered off and is in line with the rest of Europe’s, that doesn’t mean it got things right.”

    So far, its obvious to any objective observer that Sweden got things right, as Sweden’s daily Covid death rate has remained below 0.33 per million since July 30 (and is now 0.21 per million).

    In sharp contrast, the daily Covid death rate in the US has ranged from 1.79 to 3.47 per million since May 26 (and is now 2.24 per million).

    Sweden’s very low daily Covid death rate (about 2 deaths per day in Sweden) has been among the lowest in Europe for the past three months (and lower than most countries that imposed lockdowns). And yet, Sweden didn’t shut down businesses or schools, nor mandate mask wearing in public.

    Norway and Denmark also didn’t mandate masks, and also have very low daily Covid death rates (all less than one tenth the US rate).

    1. at worst it means Sweden is in the same shape as the rest of Europe, but didn’t wreck their economy in the process. that’s a huge win.

    2. Correction, Denmark’s daily Covid death rate is now only about one fifth that of the US.

  7. Are you actually going to leave me alone if my choices don’t line up with yours?

    1. This whole article hinges precariously on whether “responsible individuals” means adults making decisions based on their own risk assessment and tolerance, or if it means adults making decisions based on Shikha’s risk assessment and tolerance….. only one of these is remotely libertarian, but the tone of the article suggests the other.

      1. Shreeka is not a libertarian.

      2. Your Compliance/Submission score will enhance your social credit score comrade.

        1. But since your base score depends on your sex, race, ethnicity, and gender (plus bonus points for physical, mental, and emotional handicaps), most of us are screwed.

          1. Good thing most of us are Aspies.

      3. the problem is all the knuckleheads who want the libertarian concept of freedom, who fail to understand the libertarian concept of responsibility. those who want to beat he drum of “don’t tell me what to do,” only because they don’t want to act like adults and voluntarily do what they should.

  8. Finally a good headline from Shikha, then Orange Man Bad in the sub-headline.

    1. It’s like a form of Tourette’s.

  9. I am not optimistic that a Biden/Harris admin will do anything rational to contain the virus, if things keep going the way they are now, will probably implement a nationwide lockdown with literally everything locked down except for food delivery, and it had better be foods the progs approve of, also no booze, or cigarettes. He has already picked two COVID czars from Obama’s CDC and FDA who are very hostile to such things, but don’t seem to have much experience with actual infectious diseases

  10. “At this stage, the government couldn’t pay people to go to the movies (and shouldn’t try), because everyone knows that huddling with strangers in a dark, enclosed space for two hours is asking for trouble.

    But the restaurant industry found a way to hang on. Many eateries shifted their operations outdoors or switched to takeout and implemented other safe practices.”

    Does a theater being “dark” actually have anything to do with the risk of getting COVID, or is Shikha just attempting to make theaters sound scary in support of her spurious notion that nobody is willing to go to one? Because I, for one, would absolutely go to a movie theater right now if only my shithead governor (D-MI) could spare a shred of respect for the liberties of her royal subjects, as she seems to view us.

    Shikha, as a fellow resident of Michigan, how can you genuinely compare theaters with restaurants? One industry was allowed to open up with some precautions in place, and consumers were able to choose whether to patronize it; the other industry was ordered to stay home and suffocated in its bed by the executive branch. What a great example of a Democrat pursuing “such adaptive responses, staking out a middle ground between doing nothing and putting everyone under lock and key.”

  11. the Trump’s M.A.G.A., KKK groups gangs are ready with their weapons for attact is Trump looses the battle,this people are armed & dangerous Trump’s fans followers the M.A.G.A. gangs Republicans against Trump…….VISIT HERE FULL DETAIL.

  12. Covid-19 like all other pandemics will go away when it does. Lock-downs and masks are doing almost nothing. What is working is breakthroughs in testing and treatment, a lot less people are dying now. Working on those items and a vaccine is the best course.
    Things are going to get worse this winter. Every person with sniffles, a cold or the flu will be forced to get tested, causing long lines and keeping those really sick from getting immediate treatment.
    Who ever wins the Presidency will get blamed for the predictable.

    1. Whoever wins the presidency will get blamed for the predictable by the other side. Their own side will talk about how much worse it would be if the other guy got elected.

      1. Their own side will talk about how much worse it would be if the other guy got elected.

        I disagree. Trump himself may talk about how bad things are with Biden as Pres. because he’s been doing that since the Obama Administration. I don’t think the rest of the GOP is going to stand up and say, “Things would be better if Trump were in charge.” as much as “Things would be better if someone else were in charge.”

  13. The constant refrain around here about Sweden…the reality is that they to are trending toward some form of restrictions. They aren’t some wide open society that people around here paint.

    “Prime minister Stefan Löfven spoke about the new measures at a news conference in Stockholm on Tuesday. The situation is very serious,” Löfven said. The Swedish Public Health Authority reported 10,177 new cases of corona on Tuesday. The chapter includes cases starting on Friday. The number of infections recorded on Friday, 4,062, is the highest figure ever. On Tuesday, Sweden will extend its regional recommendations to the Halland, Örebro and Jönköping regions. In the past, Sweden has made stricter recommendations for Stockholm, Västra Götaland, Östergötland and Skåne and Uppsala. Tighter recommendations mean in practice that people should avoid physical contact with everyone except those living in the same household. Already last week, the Public Health Authority called for avoiding stays in shopping malls, museums, libraries, spas and gyms, for example. Outside the recommendation are the necessary visits to pharmacies and grocery stores. There will also be a new recommendation for the whole of Sweden, according to which a maximum of eight people can sit at one table in restaurants.”

    The only idiots who want to pursue the insane idea of herd immunity are some of the writers here like Tucille, and Trump and his cohorts.

    1. “The constant refrain around here about Sweden…the reality is that they to are trending toward some form of restrictions. They aren’t some wide open society that people around here paint…”

      How’s cherry picking paying these days, jackass? Your quote shows the ‘restrictions’ to be “recommendations” and quite open by comparison to the D-run U?S states.
      And I’m still waiting to hear how the magic chant will make those nasty wildfires go away.

    2. agreed. herd immunity looked like it could have been a strategy early on, with the high rate of asymptomatic cases, but we have since learned that asymptomatic cases typically do not develop the anti-body levels required for immunity. we have been holding a tenuous line with cases testing our healthcare capacity for 7 months, and we are, at best, 1/10 of the way to anything resembling herd immunity. at that rate, we would have to live as we are for the next 6yrs….. which is likely longer than any immunity will last.

      what we need are the release of the rapid at home tests. people can test themselves before leaving the house. clubs, bars concerts, theaters, stores, workplaces could require showing a negative test before entering. problem is that all the idiots who will pull their hair out over wearing masks probably won’t do that either.

      1. Agreed back at ya.

      2. clubs, bars concerts, theaters, stores, workplaces could require showing a negative test before entering. problem is that all the idiots who will pull their hair out over wearing masks probably won’t do that either.

        I’ll just keep a negative test hanging from my rearview mirror the same way most of the pro-mask people I see wearing paper masks that obviously haven’t been washed in days to weeks.

        One COVID talisman is as good as another, right?

        1. i would envision them putting a label on the test that fades once exposed to air within a day.

          also, keeping an old test and passing it off as today’s would be fraud….. and if your fraud resulted in you spreading it to others, you would probably be criminally liable. that you would even entertain deliberately putting others at potential risk demonstrates a clear disregard for the NAP.

      3. Imagine thinking that NYC actually fought back the virus.

    3. Sevo mentioned that recommendations aren’t mandates.

      You also ignored that Sweden’s case rate is going up again, but it’s death rate isn’t. This is likely because vulnerable people are doing a good job of protecting themselves. So the vast majority of cases are in younger, healthier people who have rationally decided they risk of infection is worth taking in order to continue going about their daily lives.

      What’s so “insane” about herd immunity? To me, insanity is waiting indefinitely for a vaccine that may never be all that effective. In the meantime, untold damage is being done by mandatory lockdowns.

      1. Right. Sweden is completely different than the US, so comparisons are strained for lots of reasons including demographics. Sweden has one city, Stockholm, with about 25% of the country’s population. And the US alone has 10 cities each with more people than Stockholm.
        And even more importantly, Sweden enjoys universal health care. Every Swede knows his or her health care coverage isn’t tied to their job. So, whereas people in America make decisions to go to work in a pandemic based solely on the fact they don’t want to lose health insurance, it’s not an issue in Sweden. And that also leads to Sweden having a healthier population and greater life expectancy, ranked 13th, than the US, ranked 45th.

        So, I agree with your point (ha!) that the US should consider universal health care, since you’re all things about Sweden in health.

        Like Sweden, we have no national mandate for masks. We’ve had individual states have them. Like Sweden, our death rate compared to other countries was dismal. Like Sweden, we aren’t locked down. And just like Sweden today, we are responding to a surge in COVID with tightening restrictions.

        1. You really love talking out your ass. “based solely on maintaining health insurance”. Yeah it had nothing to do with their states telling them it was illegal to work and then effing up their unemployment (hello Pennsylvania) while their bills piled up.

          Nope, it was all because everyone is coward like you who only ventured to work to prevent themselves succumbing to a horrible agonizing death that they have a .04% chance of experiencing.

          I know you sound smart to yourself, but that’s the problem with libtards like you. You’re too stupid to realize you’re stupid.

          1. Enjoy Election Day!


      2. PS…did you know that in April, Sweden did things like close bars that ignored social distancing “guidelines?”

        Just like New York did.

        1. Except new York retardedly refused to close down its public transit system. Which drove its early infections.. Unlike europe

  14. good article….. too bad the concept of responsibility is lost on so many of the commenters.

    1. It’s not.

      What’s lost is that the idea of responsibility, for those who claim others as irresponsible = following every last diktat as if it were all scientifically proven, effective measures, when none of it is. Your masks are not science.

      The idea that we can “beat” or “do well against” a virus is retarded on its face. Viruses will do what viruses do, and there is very little we can do about that beyond the basic measures like hand washing.

      1. first….. did i say do every last imaginable thing? no.

        second….. if you don’t think masks do anything, that has nothing to do with science….. you are just a retard. there is plenty of scientific evidence, and it is such a common sense thing that masks have been a standard reaction to pandemics for over 100yrs…… it isn’t new or nebulous, it is common fucking sense. if you have a virus that is carried through respiratory droplets, a mask will reduce the chance of transmission.

        third, anyone saying we should just “let the virus do what viruses do,” has no fucking idea what the situation and the dangers are. if we do nothing transmission rates become too high and we overload our healthcare capacity. when that happens people will die, not because of a “virus doing what viruses do,” but because care will have o be rationed for the severe cases…… your attitude could end up killing people. i guess the NAP goes out the window if you don’t “feel” like doing something as simple as wearing a mask. this is the height of irresponsibility, and demonstrates perfectly the way Trump has actively made this situation worse. anyone saying nobody should do anything is an idiot too stupid to understand that what they are advocating would kill people…. people who would not have died if they had been willing to take simple voluntary actions to help keep the hospitalization rates sustainable.

        1. Your cites fell off…

          Also the cdc recently did a study that found 85% of those infected wore a mask “always” (71% of respondents) or “very often” (14%).

          How do you square that? And if you say “well it doesn’t completely stop the virus but it helps” you’re admitting you’re wrong. If you say “well they probably came in contact with maskless people” but 85% report wearing masks nearly always, isn’t 85% of people masked up a high percentage? Would a mask mandate to mask up the 15% currently wearing masks infrequently really make a difference if everyone else already has a mask? And what evidence can you cite?

          1. oh, look, another retard. you are not showing anything that suggests mask don’t work….. not everyone who smokes gets cancer and not everyone who gets lung cancer was a smoker….. that does nothing to eliminate the underlying science that connects them. your attempt at garbage science does not change reality.

            here are the reasons most people who get sick report they wore masks. 1. most people are wearing masks regularly…… you might as well ask them if they are not homeless…. living in a house makes you catch covid….. not being transgender makes you catch covid. pick any trait or behavior that is common, and you could pretend it makes you likely to catch covid. it is a BS premise for determining the effectiveness of masks. 2. even the retards who go out of their way to do stupid things like large gatherings without face coverings are still wearing masks “very often,” because just about every business in the country requires them. that people ever wear masks is a BS way to determine if they never do anything risky. even the people who engage in risky behavior do the right thing some of the time because it is forced on them by the businesses. 3. do you REALLY think everybody in front of a doctor because they have Covid is going to admit they were stupid? yeah….. and nobody ever lies to the dentist about their flossing habits when they get a cavity either.

    2. too bad the concept of responsibility is lost on so many of the commenters.

      When you say ‘personal responsibility’ do you mean things like ‘thinking rationally’, ‘delaying gratification’, ‘showing up on time’, and ‘working hard’?

      You might as well just say, “Reason commentors are just as bright as white kids.”

      1. those are some examples of things connected with personal responsibility. in the context of this discussion it is more distinctly understanding that what you want and what you should do are not always the same thing. working hard…. few people do it just because they want to. same for everything on your list. the go to in this discussion seems to be wearing masks……. nobody wants to do it…. but they should do it. somehow the debate about masks does sound a lot like people saying they shouldn’t have to show up on time and work hard.

  15. Frustratingly wishy-washy. Everyone except the old or sick should forget about the virus. That will get us to herd immunity (finally!) as quickly as possible. Then the old folks can emerge again.

  16. Sweden’s economy did not do appreciably better than neighbors such as Denmark (who had substantially fewer deaths). So yeah, more dead people and a crap economy, just what we need. Oh wait.. Trump

  17. this app pay me good dollars$ and…READ MORE

  18. I love that writers, pundits, talking heads, and the political intelligentsia still push an underlying narrative that there is an appropriate response that saves the economy and defeats the virus at the same time.

    I’m so tired of COVID. Not the disease, but the constant daily fear mongering, blaming, baseless prognostications, claims or science or economy, and ardent believers in positions that have limited information at best for support.

    COVID has definitely shown that we are a society who quickly develops solid opinions on subject matters that we have little to no actual information about. We are such a “find me the facts that support my conclusion” society that it’s almost comical at this point.

    1. I’m so tired of COVID. Not the disease, but the constant daily fear mongering, blaming, baseless prognostications, claims or science or economy, and ardent believers in positions that have limited information at best for support.

      I was tired of COVID back when “End Of Doom” Bailey was explaining how global warming was going to bring about a disease that had, simultaneously, the mortality of ebola, the morbidity of polio, and the transmissivity of influenza. One flu season and all the survivors would be too crippled to drag themselves out from under the mountain of corpses that had collapsed on top of them. Unless, of course, we all got vaccinated against this unknown disease and started working (harder) to cut CO2 emissions.

    2. confirmation bias has come to dominate our lives more than i would have ever believed possible. some of the ideas that go mainstream these days never would have gone beyond a few tin foil hats a decade or so ago.

      1. You are right; the level of confirmation bias that we participate in as a society is just jaw dropping at this point.

  19. If the first lockdown worked, why do we need a second one? And if the first lockdown *didnt* work, then why would another one work?

    Was this about the virus OR THE ELECTION?
    Manipulated polls meant to ‘legitimize’ rigged election results?
    “The election was not rigged – all the polls demonstrated Biden’s clear lead across the Country.” – Example
    What happens if China successfully duplicates [clones] select ballots [battleground states]?
    What happens if coordination exists with select states to deliver ‘printing’ and ‘paper’ ballot recipe(s)? [secrets] to select [F] adversaries?
    Nothing to lose?
    Logical thinking.

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