California's Regional Stay-At-Home Order Was a Costly Failure

By the state’s own estimates, a two-month lockdown was less effective than a slow day of vaccinations.


The numbers are in on California's two-month regional stay-at-home order that banned outdoor dining, closed nail salons, and forbade people from socializing with others outside their household. By the state's own estimates, the policy should be considered a costly failure.

The state's second regional stay-at-home order was issued on December 3 by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. It divided California into five new regions and then imposed a range of new restrictions on businesses and social activity whenever spare intensive care unit (ICU) capacity fell below 15 percent.

The order provoked extreme controversy. Businesses argued a second lockdown would bring about their doom. Law enforcement agencies across the state said they wouldn't enforce it. Several judges ruled the ban on outdoor dining was unsupported by evidence that it would slow the spread of COVID-19.

Newsom, claiming that projections showed ICU capacity would be above 15 percent within a month, issued a surprise retraction of the order at the end of January. More cynical observers, including supporters of the order, argued the governor was bowing to political pressure.

One week after its end, the Los Angeles Times reports that state officials are estimating that the stay-at-home order prevented some 25,000 people from being hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, with the outdoor dining ban, in particular, being singled out as one main reason why.

The Times notes, as do some of the experts it quotes, that it's much too early to have real data on the efficacy of an outdoor dining ban, but the inherent nature of eating at a restaurant—where masking is impossible and social distancing difficult—means it must have made a difference.

"A lot of people said, 'You're closing this down, but there's no proof.' Well, it's not that there's no proof. It's just not the proof that people want to see," said California's Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly to the Times. "You have an environment where you take off your mask, and you sit close to people for a long period of time—the virus spreads."

That is not proof that the state's outdoor dining ban was effective. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant rejected this same argument when he struck down Los Angeles' identical county-level ban on outdoor dining in early December.

Chalfant said in a tentative opinion that because the county could only point to generalities about the risk of outdoor dining (no masks, socializing between households etc.) but no actual proof that the practice was particularly likely to spread COVID-19, a policy singling out outdoor dining was "an abuse of the [Health] Department's emergency powers, [and] is not grounded in science, evidence, or logic."

But let's assume for a moment that state estimates about the efficacy of the regional stay-at-home order are correct, and it is responsible for preventing 25,000 cases of severe COVID-19.

If that's true, the policy should be considered ineffective compared to other means of mitigating the pandemic's spread, and ruinously so when compared to the costs it imposed on the state's businesses.

An average of 155,087 people were vaccinated each day over the past week in California, and 88,816 were vaccinated yesterday. The two vaccines approved for use in the U.S., made by Moderna and Pfizer, are both 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 after two doses.

According to some back-of-the-envelope math, that means that yesterday vaccinations in California prevented about three times the number of COVID-19 cases as a two-month regional stay-at-home order. On an average day, the state is preventing through vaccination six times as many COVID-19 cases as were prevented by the stay-at-home order.

One caveat to this is that most of the doses distributed on an average day in California will be a person's first dose, and it takes two doses for the vaccine to be fully effective. Nevertheless, preliminary estimates put the effectiveness of one dose of the Pfizer vaccine at 82 percent. A single dose of the Moderna vaccine is estimated to be 92 percent effective.

Even taking the lower efficacy of one-dose vaccines into account, each day of vaccinations is preventing vastly more COVID-19 cases than the state's regional stay-at-home order. Vaccines also don't have the side effect of wrecking businesses, putting people out of jobs, and harming people's ability to socialize.

One argument in favor of the governor's now-lifted regional lockdown order is that it is still preventing some severe COVID-19 cases, and is thus worth doing, even if vaccinations are a more effective, less costly means of bringing the pandemic to an end.

But there are tradeoffs to every policy. Enforcing a stay-at-home order requires lots of time, money, and manpower to be effective. It seems the state would be much better off taking those resources spent enforcing lockdown orders and instead devoting them to speeding up the rate of vaccinations, which produce much more bang per buck.

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  1. This is untrue. The California Dems assure me that their state is the best governed state in the nation. Bar none. They insist their policies should be instituted in every state and at the Federal level as well. To argue otherwise means you are a white supremacist.

    1. This lockdown did EXACTLY what it was meant to do. It ensured that plenty of people remained out of work, so that they would demand a new Stimulus Bill.

      Why is that important for California? If there is no stimulus bill with extra Covid Checks, then there is no stimulus bill with state bailouts. It’s very simple.

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      2. Pennsylvania is doing the same thing. The Governor has said that if we come out of the emergency too soon we will lose Federal funds.

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  2. “One argument in favor of the governor’s now-lifted regional lockdown order is that it is still preventing some severe COVID-19 cases, and is thus worth doing, even if vaccinations are a more effective, less costly means of bringing the pandemic to an end.”

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  3. Dems are the party of science.

    1. You’re saying they’re a genetics experiment gone wrong? I like the way you think.

    2. Many respectable Democrats said that they weren’t going to stand for this — partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn’t get invited to those sort of parties.

      1. What is, “quotes from books I reread a fourth time during shutdown”?

      2. WHAAAATT? You FOUND a “respectable democrat”?
        Where was he lurking?

      3. Channeling “The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy” series?

    1. How is 2 girls 1 mask not a thing yet?

      1. 2 girls 4 masks 1 cup

    2. Ah fuck you Fauci!

    3. In college we just called it double-bagging.

      Oh wait. Never mind.

  4. Please remember that Science has changed as of the inauguration.

  5. Idaho: no ban on indoor dining, no businesses closed, unenforced discouraging of gatherings.

    Cases one-fifth yesterday what they were two months ago, and the rate has been sinking like a greased safe since the peak.

    1. Yes hey skipper but think about how many FEWER cases there would have been IF THEY ONLY DID LOCKDOWNS BANNED DINING AND MASK MANDATES

      1. Hmmm … I think my sarcasm detector was just triggered.

      2. If Idaho was doing that well, lockdowns may have even brought people back to life.

  6. The fallacy of this argument is that at the time of the lockdown, no vaccines were available, so there is no comparison to be made.

    1. Not quite.

      The argument really (if I may be so bold) amounts to this: the mandates did not prevent any of the cases and deaths that happened, so they can only have prevented those that would have happened, otherwise.

      That number can’t be very large. Case rates are plummeting across the country, which means, regardless of mandates, the virus is running out of people to infect.

      If the decrease continues and roughly mirrors the increase in the fall, we have already seen more than 90% of the infections and deaths.

      That means the vaccines can save no more than 40,000-ish people. That’s not chump change, but it is also a middling-bad flu season. And that is if every remaining susceptible arm gets a jab tomorrow.

      In other words, all these mandates accomplished exactly nothing.

      1. Mandate argument is spot on, but the vaccine 40k argument waves away a resurgence next fall/winter. The disease is selectively deadly; vaccination is worthwhile as long term likelihood of infection is unknown at this point.

        1. Fair enough.

          But the vaccine can only save from infection that part of the population that a) hasn’t already been infected, and b) is susceptible.

          Various unintended experiments (cruise ships, aircraft carriers, prisons, etc) indicate that 40-60% of the US population isn’t susceptible in the first place.

          And while we can, by definition, know the number of diagnosed infections — cases — we don’t know the ratio of cases to infections.

          My pure guess is that C-19 is very contagious (which is why mandates and masks have been futile), and that the ratio of cases to infections is about 1:5.

          It is also worth noting that every vaccine jab that goes into the arm of someone who is not susceptible, or has already been infected, is a jab wasted. As a rough guess, that will amount to ⅔ of vaccinations.

          1. not to mention the SERIOUS and far too common adverse reactions, so far almost entirely amongst the first jabees. When Round Two starts hitting, many more adverse events will occur. Why? Because the shot as currently formulated takes over our DNA and reprogrammes it to attack the artificial spike protein in the serum. As our bodies do that, it triggers a mechanism to recognise that as an enemy next time it is encountered. When the second dose is poked in, the body recognises the new invader as dangerous and provokes a heavy response. Trouble is, the body also trains itself towrongly target other proteins.. that are necessary for body function. The second dose can and does trigger a hot response to that protein, thinking it is an invader. Result? Organs, things like blood platelets, other proteins, are attacked. Can lead to serious permanant impairment, even death.

      2. Thanks for trying to make sense of the argument. It certainly appeared to be arguing that California should have vaccinated instead of locking down, even though vaccination wasn’t an option at the time.

      3. regardless of mandates, the virus is running out of people to infect.

        one possible explanation. Here is another:

        as the virus wanders about on the loose, enough people who are out and about are exposed to small doses of the virus, and since it is one of the corona virus strains, most healthy folks will already have an immune system primed to recognise any cornoa virus as an enemy, and thus will attack and destroy. As covid viruses are encountered in more people, they will develop an immune response specific to THAT one. Next time a few viral particles wander into this guy’s system, it is already primed, locked, and loaded to seek out and destroy this new virus.
        THAT is how God desogned our bodies to ward off disease.

        Further, as the panic-demonic continues to be spanked into action by the media and gummit wonks, more and more people are learning about how a few cheap reaadily available supplements WILL strengthen and equip a normal immune system to be far more capable in attacking and destroying ANY pathgenic virus that might decide to hitchhike in some stranger. Most people are mildly to seriously defficient in at least four of the key substances necessary for a strong immune system, Sedentary lifestyle as in what most do on lockdown, increased snack and fast foods, sugar intake, alcohol intake (FIVE times what was observed before this madness) all tend to compromise a healthy immune system.

        Neither the lockdowns NOR the silly vaccine will “end the pandemic” as it was planned to do what it has been doing. The disease, while real, is nothing like Fautchee and Friends claim it to be.

  7. This was overly wordy with a lot of hand wringing. California is a failure. Brevity, the soul of wit. No thanks required.

  8. As predicted many times here and elsewhere. Cali gets what it deserves.

    1. We should have shot every motherfucker from the lower 49 who moved here after 1985. That’s why this state is a mess.

      Native Californians are great people. Orcs from the lower 49 brought us down because we felt bad for the lack of decent pussy in their home state

  9. Why does the author accept the predictions about the efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – and then make an argument assuming those values are valid? The efficacy cannot be proved because there are too many variables in the real world. So what is efficacy? Prevention of infection? Reduction in deaths? Reduced severity of symptoms? Lowered transmission? Any of those would be good but in the real world, we will have estimates and models generating estimates. Not measurements.
    Clinical trials are different than real world applications, and there won’t be good data from the real world, where conditions and recipients are not controlled and cannot be controlled or monitored. The virus is mutating constantly so the clinical trials will never catch up. The science is and will remain, uncertain.

    1. the reports on the shots, from the manufacturers, declare they can NOT cure, nor prevent, infection with the Covid virus. Nor can itprevent transmission. It can ONLY reduce some symptoms in some people.
      WHY is this information not included in reports such as this one?

  10. We already know what happened in California after the Dec 3 regional mandates: COVID-19 cases skyrocketed. The mandates didn’t prevent 25K cases, they were totally ineffective. The mandates may have increased cases, by pushing people from outdoor spaced out dining with friends to indoor huddled secretive dining, spreading more virus particles.

    We also know the cost — already struggling businesses were damaged further, some permanently.

    But there’s still a logical fallacy in the article: California could do more than one thing. The vaccine and the lockdown order are not mutually exclusive. California could have ordered everyone to be vaccinated and ordered everyone to stay indoors for a month and skip Christmas, and that would have likely cut the number of cases. But the costs would have been huge. Never forget the costs.

    1. and neither are effective in “ending the pandemic”. So I propose a fourth option: let only those who believe in the vaccine get them, force NO ONE to take any. And let those who are fearful of being out and about in public and thus “exposed” to the virus stay home and let their business fold. Others can maintain their stores open. Someone is fearful of “catching it at a McDonald’s, don’t go there. Let us all BE the adults in the room we would appear to be. I do NOT need a Nannie Nuisance to order me about. I’ve NEVER gotten any of the flue shots, no not one. NOr have I ever contracted any of those flu bugs that come round once in a while, The WuFLu is no different. I KNOW I’ve been exposed to it, that was thre months back, I’ve never had any smptoms of it. I have gotten maybe thre colds that led to my taking ONE day off to kick it. The folks who “shared” those germ cells with me were flat on their backs in bed for ten days to two seeks, and I got the sniffles, never slowed down or lost one productive day. And they want ME to stay home and take the shot? Nah. Thanks all the same.

  11. It seems the state would be much better off taking those resources spent enforcing lockdown orders and instead devoting them to speeding up the rate of vaccinations, which produce much more bang per buck.”
    Two problems with the logic in the above article when it comes to Kalifornia’s so-called leadership.
    One: New scum and his comrades aren’t interested in logic.
    Two: The demo-rot way is, and I quote, “never waste a good crisis” to shove our fascism down your throat.

  12. Jesus christ when are people going to wake up? The Democrats are trying to destroy the country to make everyone dependent on government. They’re doing this on purpose! Trying to make rational sense of it is a fools errand. We’re going to have to fight because they aren’t going to stop.

    1. Why do you think they used the Communist Chinese Virus as an excuse to suppress individual choices?
      Why do you think they put up 12 foot fences and razor wire in DC?
      (hint: their official position is that fences do not work)
      Why do you think they keep thousands of Army Troops in DC?
      Why do you think they have always opposed the second amendment?
      Why do you think they are suppressing dissent?
      Have you ever read a book on Italy in the 1930s?
      Have you ever read a book about Germany in the 1930s?

  13. It was so fucking obvious.

    I regularly read the Facebook feed of the Long Beach Post.

    Every time record-high cases of hospitalizations and deaths were reported from around mid-December onwards, I would point out the ban on outdoor dining accomplished jack shit.

    Hospitalizations and deaths continued to rise even in January!

  14. I agree with your point that the stay at home order was a costly failure. However, you deliberately miscompare, to the point of complete fraud.

    You compare 25,000 hospitalizations to 88,000 vaccinations. That isn’t 3 times as effective. Because roughly 1% of cases are hospitalized, the vaccinations save roughly 880 hospitalizations.

    You need to focus on the absurdly optimistic estimates that these orders avoided 40% of the entire country’s hospitalizations. According to the CDC, only around 35,000 people were hospitalized in the entire country over this same period.

    Thus, the claimed benefits are absurd on their face, probably by an order of magnitude or more.

  15. “One week after its end, the Los Angeles Times reports that state officials are estimating that the stay-at-home order prevented some 25,000 people from being hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, with the outdoor dining ban, in particular, being singled out as one main reason why.”

    How did this estimate factor in non-compliance? It stands to reason (sorry) that at least some in-home gatherings occurred that might otherwise have taken place at outdoor restaurants, as has been argued on this very site. I’m used to bullshit from public officials, but this claim appears especially bullshitty.

    1. against the community guiadline andt..READ MORE

    2. Further, it ignores the principle involved:
      Fuck off, Newsom. It is my choice to look after my health, period.

  16. Plus the lockdowns reduced income to restaurants that would have paid taxes to the state, who could then use the money to buy even more vaccines dosages or distribute it faster. And then the experts say “it gotta to have save lives”…because we say it does. Lets stop driving …its gotta save lives! This really reliving the arguments against Nuclear power plants….what if it has an accident and releases radiation…what will it do? This is not about rationality, its about fear. surrounded by confusing/changing statistics.

  17. Let’s not forget the paybacks to California’s Governor in the form of “donations” to his favorite “charities”. Do you really think that Netflix would have given him the money if it wasn’t for his shutdowns bosting their subscriber numbers?

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