If Lockdowns Work, Why Has Florida Done Better Than California?

A new study has appeared that shows once more that lockdowns have no discernible effect on COVID-19 infections or deaths, despite their colossal costs and harms.

Maria Krylova, writing in the Canadian publication C2C Journal, looks in detail at two pairs of similar US states that implemented contrasting measures in response to the pandemic to see if there were significant differences when it came to Covid infections and deaths.

She explains that her research is motivated by a wish to see rational cost-benefit assessments of policies responding to pandemics.

While aimed at fighting the virus’s spread, the interventions imposed a massive toll in areas including global hungerdomestic abusemental and physical health problems, suicides and bankruptcies. Despite these grim consequences and, more recently, the accelerating pace of vaccinations and the gratifying reduction in deaths from COVID-19, many North American governments remain reluctant to ease the restrictions. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mused lately that the Canada-US land border would reopen “eventually”, while some public health figures are now calling for a third lockdown.

Before we – again – do anything that drastic, we need to pose an important question: Did the lockdowns actually work? Not merely in the sense of keeping people at home and convinced that their governments were doing something; but in actually altering the course of the virus through the population. This should be a crucial matter of interest to every citizen and politician. It is key to rationally assessing the costs and benefits of imposing similar social and economic policies during the next serious epidemic.

She has gathered a wealth of information on the four states in question.

COVID-19-related state-level regulations and measures were gathered and examined in their temporal relationship to the pandemic’s development, reflected in the case and death statistics (daily and total) in two pairs of U.S. states. Each pair of states is broadly comparable in climate, population, urbanization and economic characteristics, but is contrasted in the degree of severity of its statewide rules.

Two are mid-sized, adjoining Midwest states: Minnesota and Wisconsin. Minnesota had a hard and extended lockdown (many schools are still not open, for example), while Wisconsin had a short lockdown followed by moderate restrictions. The other two are southerly coastal states – California and Florida. California has had a hard and ongoing lockdown, while Florida has sought every opportunity to ease restrictions and reopen. Two other seemingly suitable cases were omitted: New York, a hard-lockdown state, because of its unique circumstances (including heavy mass-transit use in its largest city, and its deadly nursing home scandal), and South Dakota, North America’s only jurisdiction to remain fully open throughout the pandemic, because of its small and non-urbanized population.

There is an array of uncontrollable or unmeasurable variables related to the pandemic’s course, the public health response, the political response and the nature of the studied states that further complicates state-by-state comparison, increases uncertainty and, hence, lowers the confidence of conclusions. The process requires making a number of important assumptions. Among these are the accuracy of COVID-19 testing, the accuracy of case and fatality counts, and the state-to-state and temporal consistency of lockdown enforcement. The key assumptions are discussed in the Appendix.

Because the pandemic is ongoing, the observed trends are accurate to mid-March 2021. There is no intention to forecast the pandemic’s future course.

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