Challenging the groupthink on lockdowns
National Review Editor Rich Lowry’s column on Wednesday offered a provocative headline: “Where does Ron DeSantis go to get his apology?” It’s a fair question.
Over the past few weeks, the national media have simply thrashed Republican governors like DeSantis of Florida and Brian Kemp in Georgia for reopening their states too quickly, or others like South Dakota’s Kristi Noem and Iowa’s Kim Reynolds for not forcing residents to stay at home until, well, who knows when. Meanwhile, Democrats who went to full and utter lockdown — such as Gavin Newsom in California — are the real heroes, the media wants us to believe.
The number-crunching website Statista.com offers a little insight into what the data tell us. Measuring COVID-19-related deaths per 100,000 residents, Statista shows as of Thursday that the states with the worst death rates are decidedly blue. That includes even those who have nominal GOP governors, like Maryland and Massachusetts, who issued stay-at-home orders.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of that list are red states.
To look at some of the numbers, California is considered by some to be the gold standard in protecting citizens from COVID-19. Its death rate is 9 people per 100,000 residents. Yet Florida’s is 10, South Dakota is at 5 and Arkansas, where another GOP governor did not hand down a stay-at-home order, has just 3.
The reason for this can vary. For instance, red states tend to have more diffused populations.
But however it occurred, the numbers reinforce a point made this week by William Briggs, a statistician, hospital consultant and researcher and policy adviser at the conservative Heartland Institute.
Briggs looked at America’s internal numbers and found that the eight states that did not mandate staying at home fared no worse, and sometimes outperformed, those that clamped down. The outcome, he wrote, is that it’s “plain that there is no way, none at all, to claim using these comparisons that lockdowns were successful.”
Briggs added, “Since almost all of California’s deaths were in the LA area (though the entire massive state was officially locked down), most deaths in Illinois were in the Chicago area, Michigan’s around Detroit, and New York and New Jersey’s around the New York City metropolitan area, it’s very likely population density played a role. Which argues against lockdowns, since everybody had to be cooped up in tight quarters.”
Briggs uncovered similar results when he surveyed the globe. Countries that implemented full-scale lockdowns did not save more lives than those that didn’t. “We have already seen, just in decrepit Europe alone, that Belgium, UK, Andorra, Spain, Italy, and France, all locked down, had higher mortality rates than Sweden, with Belgium being more than twice as high,” Briggs observed.
“The only claim I make that is certain is you cannot conclude from this data that lockdowns worked,” Briggs wrote.
Briggs even promotes the heresy, as some see it, that lockdown proponents cannot prove their method achieved the main objective: flattening the curve.
Presumably, that’s because we don’t know what would have happened without lockdowns. South Dakota, Arkansas and others help make that point.
Said Briggs: “A better response is to say, ‘Lockdowns force people inside and lessen their contact with others, therefore limiting the spread of the virus.’ This is countered by ‘Lockdowns force healthy and sick into tight quarters, therefore enhancing the spread of the virus.’”
“It is far from clear allowing ‘essential’ businesses to remain open and the forced closing (or other disruptions) of ‘inessential’ businesses made any difference whatsoever to the spread of the virus,” Briggs added. “The majority agreed to remove everyone’s liberty, in the belief that they themselves would be protected. Fear rules.”
Briggs argues the doomsayers prevailed because they commanded the information mechanism. “There was almost no reporting on states which did not remove liberty from its citizens,” he noted. “The experts were so sure they were right, they refused to look at data proving them wrong.”
Briggs’s analysis makes a sound case for seeking out more diverse sources of information, and for challenging the conventional wisdom, especially when that wisdom is so much in doubt.
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