It’s now settled fact, based on reams of data from nearly every Western country, that lockdowns do not work. In fact, given that most countries implemented them long after peak transmission of the virus, they likely created mini breeding grounds by locking down more family members together indoors for an extended period of time. Now J.P. Morgan researchers have released data analysis that demonstrates what we have seen in Georgia, Florida, and so many other states: states that ended the lockdown earlier fared better.
Yesterday, CNBC reporter Carl Quintanilla posted diagrams prepared by J.P. Morgan plotting the rate of infection by state for those that eased restrictions. Contrary to predictions by the media, who seem to have a religious faith in lockdowns, the numbers have actually gone down in nearly all those states.
JPMorgan has a devastating piece arguing that infection rates have declined — not increased — in states where lockdowns have ended, “even after allowing for an appropriate measurement lag.” (Kolonavic)
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) May 20, 2020
Same goes for various countries, adds JPM. “This means that the pandemic and COVID-19 likely have its own dynamics unrelated to often inconsistent lockdown measures that were being implemented..”
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) May 20, 2020
Some states stayed about the same. That could be because they were simply in an earlier stage of the infection cycle because the virus arrived in those states later in time. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp implemented the earliest and most sweeping reopening and was accused of engaging in an “experiment in human sacrifice.” Hospitalizations, which are the key metric, are down 34% since May 1.
Ten weeks after the panic set in, the jury is in, and we see from nearly every country that regardless of what they did in public policy, the virus peaks sharply for several weeks and then drops off by week 6-8. They all have the same curves and time frame, but most states and countries that locked people down more severely and for longer suffered more deaths. Most of the states with the less severe and protracted lockdowns, including even some large states, enjoyed a better outcome than states with similar populations and longer lockdowns.
This is why, even as American leftists double down on lockdowns throughout the spring and summer, even the most socialist European countries are moving away from them. In Denmark, schools opened as early as April 15. Researchers there are acting surprised that the numbers went down, not up, after opening up. After noting that the disease has not spread following the opening, the State Serum Institute (SSI) has recommended opening up the country’s border on June 1. This phenomenon is no surprise to anyone paying attention.
From day one, Western countries that engaged in national masochism with severe lockdowns missed two key points:
1) The virus had already been spreading long before the lockdowns, rendering most mitigation efforts moot because, aside from some Asian countries like Taiwan and South Korea, the lockdowns caught the disease too late. Thereafter, it inevitably runs its cycle once it is brought into the country in large numbers. A new study by the Policlinico of Milan hospital found that 4.6% of blood donors in Milan already had antibodies on February 21, which means the disease had already spread everywhere in a city of 1.3 million before people even knew what hit them. Italy didn’t begin its lockdown until March 9.
2) There is no added value to full lockdown as opposed to commonsense public education and basic physical distancing. Once people were concerned enough to self-regulate, which was evident in every country after March, further locking down people indoors only made matters worse and prevented any semblance of herd immunity, while killing many others through lack of care for other ailments, not to mention the economic devastation and the toll on mental health.
The key auspicious policy ingredient is the avoidance of super-spreading events and of overwhelming the hospitals. That is where all the value is, and achieving it requires the least amount of pain and infringement upon constitutional rights. Proponents of lockdowns and arbitrarily broad shutdowns often present false dichotomies between becoming like North Korea vs. hugging everyone we see and licking every public surface. There is an in-between, unless of course the goal here is political, not public safety.
A well-researched column at Bloomberg compared the severity and duration of European country lockdowns as detailed by Oxford University against the outcome of COVID-19 deaths per country. “There’s little correlation between the severity of a nation’s restrictions and whether it managed to curb excess fatalities — a measure that looks at the overall number of deaths compared with normal trends,” concluded author Elaine He.
Yes, there were countries like Germany and Greece that had a lockdown and were more successful, but the secret ingredient was not the severity of the lockdown, because Germany was less restrictive than Italy, which suffered an awful outcome. The key is that Germany acted early. The same holds true for Israel, which shut off international travel very early on and likely ensured that fewer seedings of the virus were brought in to begin with. Which is why, despite their success, Israeli researchers felt the severe lockdown was completely unnecessary from an epidemiological standpoint and was downright catastrophic from an economic standpoint.
But early and effective action doesn’t require fascism, just public education and avoiding super-spreading events. Then, of course, you need to weigh the economic damage and the number of people who died from other ailments in those countries against those in Sweden, which didn’t shut down. We might discover that Sweden indeed enjoyed the best outcome of all.
As J.P. Morgan concluded in its analysis, “In the absence of conclusive data, these lockdowns were justified initially.” But “millions of lives were being destroyed … with little consideration that [lockdowns] might not only cause economic devastation but potentially more deaths than COVID-19 itself.” The entire purpose of lockdowns in late March was just to ensure that the hospitals weren’t overrun. Not only was it extended for too long, but this goal could have been accomplished without arbitrarily shutting down all businesses, schools, and church services, but just by suspending large public events and stadium gatherings of adults, along with simple health guidance that is actually rooted in science, not control.
Finally, we can’t ignore the nursing homes as the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Now that we know in most U.S. states and countries like Italy and Spain that suffered bad outcomes, the clear majority of all deaths were in nursing homes, it changes the entire perspective. These are the same countries that had the insane idea of placing COVID-19 patients into nursing homes. Countries like Germany and Israel didn’t do that.
In Germany, for example, just one-third of deaths were in nursing homes, whereas in Spain and Italy, it was 57% and 53% respectively. That is where the lion’s share of deaths are, which is why, for so many reasons, you can’t simply analyze the top-line fatality numbers in a vacuum for a virus that attacks so heterogeneously.
Imagine if more of our states would have followed the lead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp by securing the nursing homes rather than infecting them and then using that self-imposed tragic outcome as a pretext to remake America as we know it.
Also, in the case of New York City, subways seem to have created super-spreading and perhaps high infectious load in close-contact transmission that resulted in more deaths outside nursing homes. That is the one thing the state politicians never shut down and didn’t even sanitize until long after the transmission peak in February and March. And remember, free movement, personal bodily integrity, and earning a living with your business are fundamental rights. There is no right to public transportation.
Lockdowns are simply illogical, illegal, and immoral.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.