Just as there’s a lot of sketchy anti-vaxxer propaganda, there are also a lot of flawed attacks upon lockdowns. But just as lockdowns did shut down the skyrocketing death rates, new economic data reveals that those states that implemented such measures designed to save lives also did a better job of rescuing their economies as well.
You’ll find plenty of sources online that claim that the best response to the coronavirus was to ignore any sort of health and safety measure, and the lack of a lockdown would boost the economy somehow. Some of these even cite the death rate, conveniently forgetting that many of the deaths in states predated the imposition of the lockdown. It’s akin to blaming the firefighters for any death in a fire that occurred before sounding the alarm.
But if you analyze the death rate in the states listed by these studies as being the worst, like New York and New Jersey, you’ll see the death rate plunge after the lockdowns began in those states. These states even had lower levels of the second wave of deaths (October 2020 to January 2021) than the initial waves. Compare those outcomes to cases of states with looser restrictions, whose death rates in the second wave were higher than the first wave (Texas, Florida, Georgia).
Florida was among those that not only eschewed such health measures, but also worked to block local governments from passing any such mask mandates or social distancing requirements. It was all supposed to be in the name of business, though Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is targeting businesses that want the right to require vaccination for services, threatening cruise ships for requiring passengers to have been vaccinated, a clear swipe at the freedom of business to conduct its own business.
And policies like Gov. DeSantis’ may not be even helping businesses. UCLA economists, using the same Oxford University data on NPIs (nonpharmaceutical interventions) that conservative studies tout, made a new finding. “Not only did big states with more stringent COVID measures end 2020 with fewer infections per capita, they also tended to post better economic growth numbers last year than states with fewer restrictions. In other words, California’s economy actually fared better than Florida’s.”
Their study compares apples with apples, and not California with tiny economies like South Dakota. “The states that were considered for this analysis are basically the states that produce most of the U.S. GDP – states with a population of 5 million or greater. We found two things. First, California had more stringent interventions and a lower infection rate than either Texas or Florida, two states to which it’s often compared. Yet California also performed better with respect to GDP than either Texas or Florida. Second, the same pattern showed up across all big states: On average, the ones with more stringent interventions had both better health outcomes and better economic outcomes.”
Internationally, there’s no poster child for flawed policy than Sweden, which (like the U.K.) attempted herd immunity without a vaccine. “More than a year later, statistics indicate that the country remains very far from achieving herd immunity, despite having one of the highest numbers of positive cases relative to its population in the world. Clearly, community infection does not work,” stated Asia Analytica. “That only results in higher case numbers and a greater death toll, and prolonged economic hardship. The only way to achieve community immunity – and therefore, a return to our way of life – is through rapid mass vaccination.”
The evidence shows that developing a healthier, more prudent, less deadly environment was more important for economic growth than having governments block attempts to create a safer business climate.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College. His commentary is courtesy of Ohio Capital Journal.