Were the Covid-19 Lockdowns a Mistake?

from ReasonTV

Economist Andrew I. Friedson says they flattened the curve. Economist 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.

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

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.

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