Coronavirus

Were the COVID-19 Lockdowns a Mistake?

Andrew I. Friedson says they flattened the curve. Lyman Stone disagrees.

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Many Americans are losing patience with statewide shelter-in-place orders.

"We don't have months or weeks—businesses are hurting," says Jim Desmond, a San Diego county supervisor who unsuccessfully attempted to introduce legislation hastening the re-opening of businesses in his county despite the statewide lockdown in California.

"[Those] hurt the most in this are the poor people, the people that rent, that worked in the hospitality sector and the restaurants, and a lot of single moms….We have people on the phone crying saying, 'Hey, I got a kid to feed,'" Desmond tells Reason.

So have the lockdowns actually saved lives? There's a debate over how to analyze the data.

"Lockdowns just don't actually alter behavior all that much," says Lyman Stone, an economist and demographer who's an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies. He argues that there's no correlation between the timing of statewide or regional shelter-in-place orders and a decline in the COVID-19 death rate.

"We can basically build a theory and assert that the world obeys our theory and just go looking for any scrap of evidence that supports it," says Stone, "or we can start by looking at what are the trends we actually observe." 

Stone looked at the date governments issued shelter-in-place orders compared to the total daily deaths 20 days later, the minimum amount of time medical experts believe it would take for initial exposure to the virus to lead to death.

In every case, he found the decline came long before the 20-day threshold. Stone says voluntary social distancing is effective: Cell phone tracking data indicate that people were socially distancing before the shelter-in-place orders, and the orders had a negligible effect on the extent of that distancing.

"People were already socially distancing before the lockdown. Social distancing works," says Stone.  

University of Colorado Denver economist Andrew I. Friedson disagrees. He co-authored a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research that says California's lockdown, the first in the nation, may have prevented more than 1,600 COVID deaths.

"California is a location where this could have gotten really bad, really quickly," he says. 

Friedson's model created a "synthetic" version of California that never locked down by taking the weighted average of other states that didn't impose shelter-in-place orders. Stone says the model is less useful than looking at actual outcomes and argues that their findings don't support the use of shelter-in-place orders.

"They find that their shelter-in-place reduced deaths beginning four days after it was implemented, which means that you must assume that…a considerable share of COVID-19 cases die four days after infection," says Stone. "The problem is that's not even long enough for the incubation time." 

Friedson concedes that social distancing behavior increased before the lockdowns, but he argues that the lockdowns increased the magnitude of the effects by forcing noncompliant individuals to stay home more.

"What we're talking about with this lockdown is that we're putting some extra juice behind this," says Friedson. 

The NBER paper estimates about one life saved for every 400 jobs lost, though Friedson says that as the total death toll rises over time, it's possible that job losses per life saved could be even higher.  

"What makes these numbers particularly slippery is that it's difficult to know how many of the job losses are temporary and come back when the disease is defeated," says Friedson. "It's also unclear how many of these lives saved are just deaths that are delayed." 

Stone says that what likely flattened the curve was voluntary social distancing, prompted by information about the dangers of the virus, in conjunction with the closure of schools and large assemblies.

Instead of shelter-in-place orders, he says the rest of the world should learn from the approach taken by Hong Kong, which never issued a stay-at-home order and has just four documented COVID-19 deaths. He says the city accomplished this by banning all travel from China early on, encouraging universal use of masks, and implementing mandatory, centralized quarantines of sick or exposed individuals.

The majority of US states have now significantly modifed their shelter-in-place orders. Even California, which never came close to seeing its hospitals overrun, began allowing more retailers to re-open for curbside pickup on May 8. But it remains committed to a largely top-down, technocratic approach.

"Unfortunately life comes with some risks," says Desmond. "To me it looks like the goalposts keep moving back….We shut these business down in a day. Why is it taking us so long to open them back up? We need to start." 

Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Graphics by Joshua Swain. 

Music Credits: "Comets and Sparks" by Sergey Cheremisinov is licensed under a Creative Commons license; "Hibernation" by Sergey Cheremisinov is licensed under a Creative Commons license; "By the Winds" by Sergey Cheremisinov is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Image credits: "Woman pushing stroller," Vanessa Carvalho/ZUMA Press/Newscom; "Kemp signs bill," Bob Andres/TNS/Newscom; "Kemp in front of sign," Miguel Juarez/ZUMA Press/Newscom; "Newsom holds sanitizer," Ren E.C. Byer/ZUMA Press/Newscom; "Newsom enters presser," Sacramento Bee/ZUMA Press/Newscom; "No longer essential street art," Jim Ruymen/UPI/Newscom; "Politicians are not essential protest sign," Max Herman/Sipa USA/Newscom; "Taped off pier," Stanton Sharpe/ZUMA Press/Newscom; "Taped off playground," Image of Sport/Newscom; "Taped off bench at sunset," K.C. Alfred/ZUMA Press/Newscom; "Social distancing food line," Anthony Behar/Sipa USA/Newscom; "Masked South Carolina man," Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa USA/Newscom; "Surgery in San Diego,"  U.S. Navy/ZUMA Press/Newscom; "Empty California beach," Ringo Chiu/ZUMA Press/Newscom; "Masked man at Costco," GREG LOVETT/TNS/Newscom; "Re-Open California Sign," David Crane/ZUMA Press/Newscom; "Funeral procession in New Jersey," Brian Branch Price/ZUMA Press/Newscom; "Newsom in front of medical ship," Carolyn Cole/TNS/Newscom; "Little girl holding mask," Allan Kosmajac/Newscom; "Natalie Fedosenko/TASS/Sipa USA/Newscom; "Little girl in quarantine," Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS/SIPA/Newscom; "Empty Subway," Ron Adar/M10s/MEGA/Newscom; "Beach bike path closed sign," Stanton Sharpe/SOPA Images/Sip/Newscom; "Masked hair stylist," Russell Hons/Cal Sport Media/Newscom; ""Closed restaurant," Richard B. Levine/Newscom; "Masked waitress," Russell Hons/Cal Sport Media/Newscom

NEXT: Courts Grant Qualified Immunity to Cops in More Than Half of Cases When Invoked

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    1. this guy gets it.

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    4. Most people think their car insurance “was a waste” if they didn’t have an accident. Their post facto here is similarly mistakenly based on post facto data – the data we have *now*, not the data we had *then*.

      Back then there was some evidence that it was much more virulent than it seems to be now, and little evidence that we had any effective treatments to reduce the virulence.

      Even now, there is some evidence that the infection has serious *long term* health consequences, so that the death toll is only the tip of the iceberg of the aggregate damage it has already done.

      “Lock downs don’t work because data” is a stupid as “masks don’t work” is as stupid as “minimum wage laws don’t cost jobs because data”. The lock down surely had some effect in preventing further infections, just as having *some* kind of barrier in front of your face keeps you from sneezing and coughing on other people, just as minimum wage laws prevent some jobs from being economically viable.

      Post facto counterfactual analysis is hard. Most people don’t have a clue on how to do it. How many such analyses have taken the warming weather into account? Probably not many, as at this point *we don’t really know* how much weather plays into transmission, though we’re sure that it *does* from studies of virus survival rates in different temperature and humidity conditions.

      And those complaining about lockdowns because of the economic damage are largely missing the point – most of that damage was coming anyway. Theaters, restaurants, concerts, airlines, hotels were all going to be crushed lockdown or no.

      The biggest mistakes we’ve made were the corporate bailouts in industries with massive overcapacity for the foreseeable future. That was largely simply a bailout to the creditors of those industries, lessening the hit when firms in those industries *inevitably* declare bankruptcy.

      People thinking that the lockdowns were the cause of all the economic damage are living in a counterfactual world of rainbows and unicorns.

      1. We don’t care if lockdowns had ANY effect at all, we care if they were NECESSARY to stop the system from getting overwhelmed.

      2. “And those complaining about lockdowns because of the economic damage are largely missing the point – most of that damage was coming anyway.”

        And there you have the case for licking toilets, because you were likely to get the disease anyway. Or…. some will certainly die so kill everyone antecedently. It’s a stupid argument on its face and takes fatalism right to the basement to keep digging.

        No, you miss the point, and it’s of a similar mindset that said as goes NYC, there goes every city, village and hamlet. One size never fits all… in anything… ever. Governor orders that copy other Governor’s orders, and apply to every business from state line to state line [except liquor stores] and those they deem “essential” are idiotic and show a lack of intelligent and discernment. Seriously, we are like “7-11 stores have chips and Twinkies, so keep em open cuz essential.” I mean… what the fuck!

        Closing a store or choosing not to go to one is an individual choice, and irrelevant to the intellectual vagaries of elected child kings whose only expertise in such matters and risk is next to nothing, and at best only serves their political careers… which if there’s any justice, will be over as of November.

        This is the first time in fucking history that we have actually quarantined the healthy, and is irrespective of unintended consequences of poverty, abuse, and addiction.

      3. “And those complaining about lockdowns because of the economic damage are largely missing the point – most of that damage was coming anyway.”

        I’ve argued before that the EXACT same thing can be said of the deaths. There is a subset of people–call them Group A–for whom exposure to this virus is a death sentence, period. No matter when they are exposed, no matter what extraordinary measures are taken, these people will die. And since the virus is “in the wild”, unless these people are identified and locked in a sterile bubble for the remainder of their lives, they will be exposed and they will die. No amount of effort on our part short of the bubble will ever save their lives (although chances are very high that these same people will die of something else shortly anyway).

        There is another group of people–Group B–for whom exposure to the virus is at very high risk of being lethal, especially if extraordinary measures like ventilators and ICU care are not available; but if that extraordinary care is available, they might possibly survive.

        Group B are the people we tried to flatten the curve for, and we were just trying to pace the exposure of folks in Group A out so that they did not preclude the use of those ventilators, etc. for the folks in Group B.

        Of course, Group A and Group B look alike until they die (Group A) or recover (Group B).

        This was never about saving the lives of the people in Group A.

      4. And what is the difference between economic damage caused my lockdowns vs. no lockdowns? Do you have a number?

        I am in Japan. Here there are no lockdowns. Just a toothless “state of emergency” that lets people voluntarily close a business or stay at home. Every day I see people on the subway going to work. My favorite cafe/restaurant is often so busy on the weekend you sometimes have to wait for a table. Japan’s latest unemployment numbers were 5%. Let’s assume some lag there, but still far lower than the US.
        And now for the kicker. The rate of death in the population is 4 per million. Almost the lowest in the developed world except New Zealand. In the US the death per million is 50 times higher with lockdowns. I do notice that almost all Japanese wear masks, and keep 2 meters distance when they can. This may have been all that was needed. So yes, there may have been some economic damage but far less than 25% unemployed.

      5. If we had neither lockdowns nor the constant fear campaign perpetrated by the news media, the economic damage would have been much less.

      6. Whether or not lockdowns work, they are causing enormous harm to billions of people.
        Yes, there would be some economic repercussions even without massive government action. But it would be less. And it would be far less still if the media wasn’t trying to convince young healthy people that they are in serious danger if they encounter this virus, which just isn’t the case. For most people, this doesn’t appear to be a worse infection to have than a typical flu.

    5. People were already sheltering in place before the formal government lockdowns (see https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/americans-didnt-wait-for-their-governors-to-tell-them-to-stay-home-because-of-covid-19/). If we did not have an administration that called this virus a hoax for 6 deadly weeks, then we could have understood that social distancing, wearing masks, stopping large gatherings and trying to reduce crowded spaces like mass transit), the economic and health care system damage would have been only 1-3 % as much as it will finally be

  1. Florida’s coronavirus response shows us what we might have done differently
    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/floridas-coronavirus-response-shows-us-what-we-might-have-done-differently

    The state also relied on a more targeted approach when it did shut down. DeSantis began by shutting down nursing homes and assisted living facilities and deferred to localities when it came to implementing restrictions. This approach gave hard-hit counties such as Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach the freedom to shut down businesses while allowing rural counties that had not been nearly as affected by the outbreak to operate under some sense of normalcy.

    There are several other factors that contributed to Florida’s successful response, as well, including the state’s tropical climate, which some medical experts believe might help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. It is also possible that Florida was “heavily seeded” back in January and/or February, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, which means Floridians might have developed some sort of herd immunity to the virus before the curve peaked.

    1. Considering how many foreign tourists, especially Chinese, go to visit Disney World and other places around Florida, the probability that Floridians were already exposed and some pre-March deaths were C19-related is pretty decent.

      1. Or you don’t know anything about it so your speculations have as much value as an uninformed opinion.

      2. “some pre-March deaths were C19-related is pretty decent.”

        And chances are pretty good that some April deaths attributed to COVID were not, in fact, COVID but just counted that way anyway.

    2. DeSantis has been pretty good.
      Not perfect, but better than most.
      UFC in Jax this weekend. No fans

    3. It is also possible that Florida was “heavily seeded” back in January and/or February, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, which means Floridians might have developed some sort of herd immunity to the virus before the curve peaked.
      ———
      Remove the doublespeak there, and he means that it already went through Florida earlier this year and nobody noticed.

      1. Or he has no fucking clue.

        If I believed in herd immunity as a tangible, quantifiable, or ruggedly predictable thing, I’d love to hear him explain how herd immunity developed before the curve peaked. He may as well have said that the human species adapted before any natural selection took place or the engine revved before any additional fuel got there. And this guy not only has a medical degree but was head of the FDA, your average internist who thinks even less about policy, theory, and the interplay between the two probably spouts twice as much stupid ‘medical advice’ on any given day.

        1. He may as well have said that the human species adapted evolved before any natural selection took place…

          Point being, he said his invisible unicorn turned pink or his celestial teapot changed orbits without being acted upon by an outside force and doesn’t seem to realize it.

        2. Exactly. His statement doesn’t even make sense as worded. If it already went through the state, the curve peaked earlier than we thought. They didn’t somehow magically gain immunity before the cases existed.

          In plain speak, it ran through the state already and nobody noticed, now they are closer to herd immunity than most places.

          1. zero chance this is correct.

            Early on Florida bought more test kits than all other states combined. They aggressively tracked all of the known cases (most of which were from cruise exposures). The numbers of cases were still in the hundreds when NY was moving into the tens of thousands.

            Then NY finally started shutting down. And everyone who had a vacation home in Florida defied the “stay home” orders and left for Florida.

            That was the giant bolus of new infections. So thanks Cuomo and DeBlasio… I know you enjoyed your exclusive contract with CNN for positive coverage, but you guys screwed us (and a bunch of other parts of the country).

      2. but then the article would be so short

  2. We didn’t have a stay at home and .006% of us have died. Make your own conclusions.

    1. In the northern third of California there have been 327 cases and 9 deaths among 1.2 million people. That’s 0.0008%.

      1. Well, see? There ya go. Thanks to Gov. Newsom’s actions, you had a 7.5x lower chance of dying from KungFlu!

        This is how the CNN story would be written, and people would swallow it unquestioningly. The inability to distinguish between changes in relative vs absolute risk is one of the many ways in which society’s ignorance leads us to these situations. Tell people that doing (or not doing) something increases their risk of some undesirable outcome by 10 times, and they will say “OMG I definitely need to do/not do that thing!” When the only logical response should be “that means nothing- what is the risk to begin with? Because 10 times almost nothing is… almost nothing.”

        1. Kinda like the guy that says his business has doubled each of the past 3 years. Yet that means that last year, he’s got $128 in sales.

      2. “In the northern third of California there have been 327 cases and 9 deaths among 1.2 million people. That’s 0.0008%.”

        And courtesy of that grease-ball Newsom, you’ll be feeling the economic effects for years to come.
        Aren’t you grateful he’s looking out for you?

  3. I can easily see policy makers and advisors who ordered the lockdowns accepting any conclusion other than affirmation of their efficacy.

    1. This election year will see every incumbent politician claiming any statistic that isolates some success that he/she can claim credit for. Get ready because this is like when the Obama administration started inflating every number by “over 10 years” to make everything they did sound magical.

      Politicians will pull out some model that makes it sound like half the population owes them their life, but neglect to mention the unintended consequences that were far more severe.

    2. And this magic rock I keep in my pocket has so far been 100% effective at preventing elephant attacks on my person.

  4. Being not around people makes you less sick. No shit. That doesn’t justify forcing people into isolation when they are not sick.

    Oh and fuck the MI guv. Bitch cunt.

  5. hahahahahahahaha.

  6. So, moving forward, we will lockdown for every virus if trump is elected again?

    1. Granite
      May.8.2020 at 2:57 pm
      “So, moving forward, we will lockdown for every virus if trump is elected again?”

      Doubtful, but maybe the governors will lockdown TDS cases and save the rest of us from raging, lying maniacs.

    2. Other than federal offices and international travel, what did Trump shut down? And no… Trump’s biggest mistake was putting trust in “the experts” who first said that it wasn’t communicable from human to human.

    3. Trump didn’t lock down the country, state governors did.

      If Biden gets elected, though, you can be certain that he imposes the authoritarian policies of Democratic state governors at the federal level, and on top of that will force red states to bail out blue states.

  7. At the end of March I proposed that everyone over 60 and those with serious health issues stay inside. Concentrate on the nursing homes, which always suffer from flu deaths in any year.
    Let everyone else out as normal to get sick, recover, and develop herd immunity.
    But one death is too many!

    1. That, and shut down large gatherings, which were shutting voluntarily in any case. But keep schools open so parents could work.

      1. The schools probably would have been a major vector, considering they’re germ factories to begin with.

        1. True enough, but it doesn’t seem to harm kids as much as the seasonal flu does. And we don’t shut the schools for that.

          1. Apparently, kids don’t even transmit it. Leaving the K-12 schools open would have been the smart play for lots of different reasons: for some kids school is where they get their nutrition, keeps parents from having to quit their jobs to take care of their kids, and attenuates the spread among multi-generational house holds.

          2. I like to pretend that the schools were shuttered for the sake of the teachers and administrators only as it really didn’t make any sense given the actual (infinitesimal) risk C-19 poses to those between 2 – 20 years. In actuality though, I know it was For the Children, even though it likely actually occurred to their detriment.

        2. Schools are also immunity factories.

    1. Um, no. Otherwise, you stay the fuck off the roads because you might cause an accident and kill someone.

  8. In a state where possibly the first thing that was arranged in the lockdown was to keep the free breakfast/lunch (and dinner?) service going through the closed public schools, they’re going to need a more recognized argument than parents claiming to “have a kid to feed” if they want to register the attention of the top-level “leaders” in Sacramento.

    I halfway suspect that Newsom is already working out a PR plan for how to blame the protestors for the increase in Covid infections that most/all of the medical experts have been saying will come whenever and wherever the lockdowns are reduced; I don’t think it occurs to him that we can’t just have everyone cowering in their homes and fully dependent on government assistance forever.

    1. “I don’t think it occurs to him that we can’t just have everyone cowering in their homes and fully dependent on government assistance forever.”

      I’m sure he’d be okay with forgoing the government assistance.

      1. The last thing Newsom did regarding public assistance was to declare a special fund to provide additional benefits to illegal aliens.

        He fully understands the “progressive” concept of cultivated public dependence as an electoral strategy. In a state where you have to be in the top two national income quintiles to live in a 1BR apartment without one or more roommates and almost have to be part of “the 1%” to afford a “middle class” lifestyle, anyone who isn’t on some kind of assistance might start to get concerned about their taxes continuously getting raised (especially when so many of the streets are moonscapes and public schools are far too often turning out HS graduates with a literacy rate under 50%); and voters who realize they actually pay taxes will at some point lose patience with a governing party who talks openly about the need to raise taxes to pay for fundamental services while also boasting about the budget surplus that they’ve managed to amass.

  9. Every complex human problem, there is a solution that is neat, simple and wrong.
    – often attributed to H. L. Mencken

    The economic depression resulting from the efforts to “flatten the curve”, or whatever justification is this week, is a prime example.

    1. Even better:

      “ The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” H L Mencken

      And the same is true for the media – they live off of our fear and voyeurism.

  10. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I went door-to-door in my neighborhood advising people that there were man-eating tigers loose in the area and, thanks to my timely warning, there hasn’t been one single proven case of anybody in my neighborhood being eaten by a tiger. There is one lady who thinks she might have been eaten by a tiger, but from the description she gave we’re pretty sure it was a large carp that attacked her and not a tiger at all.

    1. Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

  11. Arguing that voluntary social distancing – with no lockdown – would have resulted in zero job losses? That what is being asserted if every job lost is on the other side of the ledger from only the marginal life.

    1. Not zero, by any means. But some fraction of the current number, certainly.

      1. Sweden currently has the biggest job losses since 2008 and the biggest economic decline since the early 1990’s (which was the crisis that ended old-fashioned socialism there). And unlike here, they require lots of notice for layoffs so there’s more to come.

        What they have shown however is that delaying any lockdown (and possibly fingers crossed avoiding it in this wave) until AFTER there are a lot of deaths and layoffs – while using that time to rapid-build bed capacity does have a real value. Not so much in avoiding anything as in reducing the delusions by people as to what the cause is.

        1. “Sweden currently has the biggest job losses since 2008 and the biggest economic decline since the early 1990’s (which was the crisis that ended old-fashioned socialism there). And unlike here, they require lots of notice for layoffs so there’s more to come.”

          Keep pitching that strawman, asshole. Maybe another coward will drop by and give you some sympathy for your whining.
          Stuff your PANIC flag up your ass, stick first, and sit on it.

        2. Good grief, you just keep confabulating.

    2. “Arguing that voluntary social distancing – with no lockdown – would have resulted in zero job losses? That what is being asserted if every job lost is on the other side of the ledger from only the marginal life.”

      Cowardly pieces of lefty shit, dragging obvious strawmen around, to justify their whining is beyond pathetic.
      Jam your PANIC flag up your asss, stick first and sit on it, asshole.

      1. He may as well have said “If you’re going to care about even one lost job, you might as well just kill everyone and get it over with.”

        1. So long as it isn’t HIS!

    3. It would have resulted in fewer job losses, and particularly the loss of small businesses who were arbitrarily shut down with no regard as to whether they actually posed any kind of significant risk of transmission of the disease. These business owners don’t usually have the cash reserve to live on (and keep paying fixed costs that do not go away because of a lockdown) for months at a time, and unemployment won’t help either.

      Of course, there’s also that neat bit about not encouraging thousands of petty tyrants at the local and state levels to try to one-up each other on how they can brutalize their own constituents by royal decree. Every argument seems to be about the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of such decrees in terms of stopping the spread of the disease, but that’s not the only, or even the most important, issue. The most important issue is the loss of liberty, and the furtherance of the notion that individual, constitutionally-guaranteed civil rights can be dispensed with at any time the government finds itself to have “a compelling governmental interest.” The observation that none of this tyranny even did what it says on the box is just icing on the cake.

    4. Nobody is saying that voluntary isolation wouldn’t have resulted in job losses as well.

      What people are saying is that (1) government shutdowns were ineffective at preventing disease, and (2) government shutdowns and interventions made the economic problems even worse than voluntary shutdowns.

      1. The fuck they aren’t. Every single person who is still pretending this is the same as seasonal flu is always very quick to point out that in February – we were going through seasonal flu. The corollary of that may be implicit but it can only be – every job lost since Feb is because of the lockdown not the virus.

        1. What do people who are “pretending this is the same as seasonal flu” have to do with anything? Those people are obviously uninformed and stupid. Why would you use the opinions of uninformed and stupid people to try to bolster your argument?

          1. Professional courtesy? You know, moron to moron.

  12. “What makes these numbers particularly slippery is that it’s difficult to know how many of the job losses are temporary and come back when the disease is defeated,” says Friedson. “It’s also unclear how many of these lives saved are just deaths that are delayed.”

    “Following the data, then, we had better err on the side of caution and continue the lockdown.”

  13. We will never know, because we locked down.
    The other option would have been to do nothing, let the virus run through the population as quickly as possible, accept the consequences, and move on quickly. In the end we would have a stronger, healthier population and much better economy. But then we would have had no one to blame for the consequences, and politicians would have had nothing to crow about on what a good job they did, and how their opponents had failed.

    1. Even that’s a false dichotomy.

      Government has a valid role to play. For example, government run institutions and offices need to set policy for themselves. Government can perform testing and provide health information. Government can set the rules under which COVID-related legal claims are adjudicated.

      The error in the government’s response to COVID-19 was to impose draconian restrictions on individuals and businesses. That’s where government crossed the line.

  14. “Unfortunately life comes with some risks,” says Desmond. “To me it looks like the goalposts keep moving back….We shut these business down in a day. Why is it taking us so long to open them back up? We need to start.”

    Desmond wins the Internet for the day.

    1. With apologies to Desmond, but you already got the Internet for your Roundup screed.

  15. For me it’s simple. If progressive dumbasses say stay shut, it means the opposite should be done.

  16. Plunging a society into a depression for this is like burning the car after the check engine light came on.

    That’s how retarded we are.

    This will go down as one of the most embarrassing period in world history. We laugh at the Dark Ages, yet here we are

    Led by clowns who wouldn’t even be squires in those days.

    1. “Led by clowns who wouldn’t even be squires in those days.”

      Initially read that as “squirrels” and wondered what you’ve got against them, comparing them to our “leaders”.

    2. Maybe they could aspire to be shit-covered peasants, if they were lucky.

  17. ” of course we may never know how many of the lives saved were just deaths delayed” Yes we do…ALL OF THEM!

    1. +1. That’s the thing about all of this– all this talk of “lives saved” is only the difference between the number they guess would have died by a certain date and the (inflated) number that actually have. Even the projections of the costs issued by proponents of opening up come with estimates of how many more will die. If those estimates don’t come with a date, they’re even more useless than they were before. The people who will supposedly die because we’ve opened up may not have died by a certain date if we’d stayed locked down, but it’s a certainty that the virus would get them eventually.

      Lockdowns, social distancing, masks, and the rest of that stuff doesn’t make one impervious to the disease, as is painfully evident. It only reduces the odds of transmission in any given exposure to a sick individual. It might take two or three times more exposures to contract the disease, but one of those times, it’s going to happen. Is it really a live saved if someone dies in July instead of April?

      The only way this cycle breaks is if there is enough herd immunity that the disease cannot sustain itself in the population. Since we have no vaccine, nor any guarantee that we ever will, the only way of achieving that is to let people get the disease and let the chips fall where they may. Lockdowns are not sustainable forever, and all they do is extend the pandemic and delay the moment when enough people have already had the disease to confer herd immunity. Nothing else is going to protect the most vulnerable among us.

  18. I strongly suspect that this argument will never be settled. Most people will accept the theory or idea that most conforms to there own beliefs. Some things that I hope people can agree on is that no matter what path was taken the country was going to go into a recession. Even if we did nothing the fact that the rest of the world is affected and that would have bleed over to us. Both Friedson and Stone supported social distancing. Voluntary or enforced social distancing would likely have impacted the economy. I think a recession was inevitable. Question now is how to ride it out and get back on a path to recovery.

    1. “…Some things that I hope people can agree on is that no matter what path was taken the country was going to go into a recession…”

      Nope.
      But we can agree that lefty twits will justify their aims by claiming facts not in evidence.

  19. New Zealand, S. Korea, Taiwan, Finland, Czech Republic, Canada and 200 other countries have imposed restrictions. These restrictions, when combined with widespread testing, contact tracing, isolation of proven and suspected covid19 victims, and quarantine of all newly arrived travelers, have yielded dramatically better outcomes than the US.
    As an example the first 3 counties listed have death rates of 5 or less per million Pop. Compare that to the US, with our haphazard lock down rules, inadequate testing, no serious isolation measures for the infected and capricious travel measures – US death rate, 237, 47 x S. Korea’s and nearly 60 x New Zealand.

    1. You do realize that at least half of those deaths have been in nursing homes, right?

    2. And you know that a major driver of those number is an outlier you are accepting without question.
      And you do know that very large areas, also locked down have suffered nearly not at all.
      And finally, I direct your attention to Jerry’s tiger rock.
      Reality really does bite; you should try it once.

    3. These restrictions, when combined with widespread testing, contact tracing, isolation of proven and suspected covid19 victims, and quarantine of all newly arrived travelers, have yielded dramatically better outcomes than the US.

      So, per your own words, the restrictions themselves were of marginal importance. On their own, an ineffective partial solution at best.

      Additionally, per your own precepts, you advocated for the travel restrictions that Trump imposed in January, right? I’m pretty sure I know the answer because the only thing you unprincipled idiots do with any consistency is espouse ideological inconsistency.

    4. You’re citing mortality rates based on known infections, which is meaningless. More importantly, The US, S. Korea, and New Zealant differ along a huge number of dimensions, but you take this as proof of your theory. Finally, the vast majority of US deaths are due to a few hotspots, hotspots that often implemented draconian, yet ineffective measures, and in those, most of the deaths occurred in nursing homes.

      You are exemplary for the absurd abuse of science we see among so many progressives and “liberals”.

  20. A moronic form of statist fear-mongering in character with America’s failed-fixed system…

  21. “We can basically build a theory and assert that the world obeys our theory and just go looking for any scrap of evidence that supports it,” says Stone …

    Which is exactly what he and Weismuller did.

  22. “Friedson … argues that the lockdowns increased the magnitude of the effects by forcing noncompliant individuals to stay home more.”

    “… forcing noncompliant individuals …”? LOL!

    I think you’re a tool of the State, Friedson.

  23. An egregious mistake.

  24. These are the public numbers. Washington State…91% of deaths >60 years old, 53% >80 years old. This virus is highly contagious , non-lethal without co-morbidities. Vulnerable people should protect themselves. The rest should be living normally.

    1. Idaho numbers… …97% of deaths >60 years old, 64% >80 years old. Under 50? No deaths.

  25. The lockdowns were definitely a mistake. New York surveyed Covid-19 patients who were hospitalized. 83 percent of them weren’t working. (Half were retired, a third were unemployed, probably on disability.) Half of them caught it at home. There was very little danger to people working.

  26. It is folly to think we can assess the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus and actually judge whether we took the right action or not at this point in time.

    Historians will make that call.

    1. It is folly to think we can assess the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus and actually judge whether we took the right action or not at this point in time.

      From a technical standpoint, I agree, having even said as much myself. From a moral standpoint, I disagree, no amount of data will ever convince me that locking people in their own homes against their will even to prevent their outright and certain death is ever the right action. As long as they are fully and knowingly aware that leaving their homes will cause their death, unless they’re my charge or caring for people who’s welfare I’ve been charged with, my legal/moral ability to compel them to take action one way or the other, is limited.

      This is why I think ideas like ‘data driven decision making’ are dumb. It’s a euphemism for “I’ll make the choice, right or wrong, that I’ve set up to be the most expediently accepted.”

      1. Nobody needs 23 types of activity when we can rely on XY to tell us what we should be doing.

      2. mad casual…Back in mid-March, when many of these restrictions went into effect, there was great uncertainty. We knew there was a Wuhan coronavirus, and that it was a) highly contagious, b) lethal to some groups, c) had no vaccine, and d) had no known therapeutic treatment whatsoever. In sum, we did not know jack-shit.

        What does a policymaker do when faced with ambiguous (at best) information? In this instance, they must act to preserve life. I have no quarrel with their call, at that time, with the scant information known (and unknown). You have to be alive to enjoy unrestricted liberty.

        Now it is May 10th, and we know a lot more. Time to reopen in a quick and safe manner.

        Historians will judge whether we did the right thing or not.

        1. What should policymakers do? Give people accurate information and let them make their own choices. The only thing government can reasonably impose restrictions on is public schools, public universities, public roads, and public transportation.

          1. DING DING DING DING

    2. We already know that government action was ineffective. All the flattening etc we have seen is the result of voluntary actions. The lockdowns were clearly not the right action.

      What is yet to be seen is how much damage government did in the process.

  27. Almost every single piece of information that we were told early on about this stupid virus, including the general timeline of events, was complete and total fake news bullshit. It actually started spreading around the world months before they claim it did.

    1. Weigel…you’re right = Almost every single piece of information that we were told early on about this stupid virus, including the general timeline of events, was complete and total fake news bullshit….and that was my point. Policymakers back in March didn’t know jack-shit. They acted to preserve life in the face of great ambiguity.

      Now we have knowledge. It is absolutely time to re-open as quickly and safely as possible.

      1. Policymakers still don’t know Jack shit. They never do. That’s why they shouldn’t be making policy in the first place and why we should leave decisions to individuals and property owners.

        1. Yeah, I hear you. In a perfect world of intelligent, well-adjusted, autonomous individuals…yes. We don’t live in that world. Not yet.

          But I’ll tell you what – America is not so far from that ideal.

          1. Yeah, I hear you. In a perfect world of intelligent, well-adjusted, autonomous individuals…yes. We don’t live in that world. Not yet.

            The only thing that matters in that list is human autonomy. People become autonomous only if they can act autonomously and need to face the consequences of their actions. You advocate policies that make people less and less autonomous, so you are advocating policies that put people into perpetual bondage and servitude.

  28. I think we knew, quite early in the pandemic, that this was going to be worse than the seasonal flu, so we needed to do more than we do for that flu. But what do we do for that flu? Very little. We have a vaccine, and we accept the thousands of deaths.

    I also think we soon knew that it would be worse than other recent pandemics, but not as bad as the 1918 flu or the black death. So I don’t see that the most extreme counter measures that have ever been imposed, can be justified.

    1. We knew quite early that this mostly kills the sick and elderly. The right response would have been to protect those people and let everybody go on with their lives.

      1. And what we will do eventually anyway.

  29. what amazes me about COVERT-19 is I have not heard of one homeless vagrant dying from COVERT-19 virus. has anyone heard of this?

  30. you quarantine to keep folks from infecting others..they either develop immunity and become non contagious or die. This strategy seems to work in a world where folks are can’t physically travel very far but in places like NYC where the Mayor and Gov allowed folks to flee and never closed down the one causal factor..the subway you could argue quarantine was a failure. In that is the case then it goes to just having the at risk folks shelter in place/protected like in nursing homes for months and the rest of us just go about our business…Just saw a study that said “cabin fever” remote working will cause over 75K suicides…not sure i believe it but the remote working does create serous mental problems..seen it myself with remote colleagues…they go bonkers after a few months.

  31. No fan-boy of Musk, but, hey, we’ll take what we can get:

    “Musk threatens to exit California over virus restrictions”
    […]
    ” In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Tesla accused the Alameda County Health Department of overstepping federal and state coronavirus restrictions when it stopped Tesla from restarting production at its factory in Fremont. The lawsuit contends Tesla factory workers are allowed to work during California’s stay-at-home order because the facility is considered “critical infrastructure.”
    “Frankly, this is the final straw,” Musk tweeted. “Tesla will now move its HQ and future programs to Texas/Nevada immediately.”
    He wrote that whether the company keeps any manufacturing in Fremont depends on how Tesla is treated in the future….”
    https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/musk-threatens-exit-california-virus-restrictions-70598938

    1. Musk: “I’m in bed with government, I expect to be treated special”

      I don’t see what’s essential about Teslas. They are a toy for people with too much money.

      1. I’ll disagree thus:
        Are you, or anyone, to decide which activity is ‘essential’?
        I’m saying “no”.

        1. California has a list of criteria for what is “essential”. While Tesla nominally falls under the “transportation” category, it is actually simply a luxury brand with no transportation function that can’t be handled more efficiently by other brands. This illustrates how absurd California’s designation of essential businesses is and that it is based, in part, on cronyism. So, we are in wild agreement.

  32. I can blame the authorities if they are not ready for an epidemic which is comparable in size with other recent epidemics; but I can’t blame them if they are not ready for something which is much bigger.

    1. “I can blame the authorities if they are not ready for an epidemic which is comparable in size with other recent epidemics; but I can’t blame them if they are not ready for something which is much bigger.”

      Not only is this not “much bigger”, but the response was FAR out of proportion.
      The response was driven by tin-pot-dictator-wannabes hoping to gain the mandate of heaven.

      1. Which other recent epidemic killed 80,000 Americans and counting?

        1. Influenza. Obesity. Diabetes.

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  34. The lockdowns weren’t supposed to “prevent deaths”, they were supposed to flatten the curve. Those 1600 people are still going to get COVID-19, they’ll just get it later.

    In addition, by normal standards, this would be a ridiculous cost to pay for “saving” 1600 lives.

  35. Demanding a lock-down is easy when you are guaranteed a fat government paycheck every week.

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  37. So the same idiots who are too retarded to vote libertarian are smart enough to manage a novel pandemic all by their individual selves.

    You people do know that a moral or political philosophy that jettisons evidence whenever evidence doesn’t support the philosophy is a crap philosophy?

    1. So the same idiots who are too retarded to vote libertarian are smart enough

      Oh, Americans are smarter than you give them credit for: they have figured out that voting is a waste of time, and that parties primarily exist for the benefit of the people running them.

      are smart enough to manage a novel pandemic all by their individual selves.

      The issue isn’t intelligence, it is motivation. State and federal agencies couldn’t give a f*ck about whether my family lives or dies; we are just a statistic to them. The only one who cares is me.

      Yes, even a stupid person who actually has an interest in protecting their family is better at it than a really smart person who doesn’t give a f*ck.

      “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

  38. We don’t care if lockdowns had ANY effect at all, we care if they were NECESSARY. to stop the system from getting overwhelmed. http://www.recantodossonhos.com.br

  39. Well i find lockdowns totally a waste, it’s leading or has led to something else that probably is not positive in the end and i don’t buy it! The numbers that have been conflicted of the overall has it-has nots and the stories of the hospitals and doctor’s clinics where people are even afraid to go aren’t packed with Covid 19 patients!! You don’t lock down a healthy people and wearing those ___ masks! Oh my God what is this really about common sense!

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  41. So, here’s a question for anyone who thinks that some form of stay at home order was a good idea.
    How much worse than the usual background of respiratory viruses that are always in circulation does a new pandemic have to be to justify such actions?

    My hard headed individualist answer would be that nothing can justify an enforced lockdown. But the practical compromising part of me says that it could be justified if the likely disruption of society from a virus would be worse than the predictable disruption caused by the response. I don’t think we are anywhere close to that line with this. The worst case in the US now looks like something around 300,000 deaths, mostly of elderly people. I cannot see how that would be a worse disruption than what we have going on now. Sometimes you have to be fatalist. This virus is too widespread to contain. It will spread one way or another.

  42. So, one guy looks at the data, and another makes a model. Gee, wonder which one I should believe?
    /sarc

  43. Largely correct article. However, because Reason treats libertarianism as a religion, it lacks the courage to come out and say masks in public places, forehead temperature scans, and constant cleaning of common areas in public spaces should be required by law and enforced so we can make some balanced adjustments and get back to work. God forbid we look to South Korea and Hong Kong

    1. You do realize that this is (at least nominally) a libertarian website, right? Did you get lost on your way to
      Vox or HuffPo?

  44. It was meant (Lockdowns) to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

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