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Tendentious Editorializing

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:


Your criticism of Texas governor Greg Abbott’s decision to end statewide lockdowns is tendentious (“Greg Abbott is endangering the health of Texas and beyond,” March 3).

You ignore the evidence that lockdowns are ineffective at stopping coronavirus transmission.

You ignore the fact that, on March 2nd – the day of Gov. Abbott’s announcement – 23 percent of Texas’s inpatient hospital beds were unoccupied, as were 19 percent of that state’s ICU beds.

You ignore the ability of vulnerable and highly risk-averse individuals to take precautions against exposure to the coronavirus without compelling non-vulnerable individuals (who are the majority) to indefinitely keep their lives and livelihoods on hold.

By pointing to the fact that “recent declines in daily new infections and deaths had stalled” as an excuse for continuation of lockdowns, you ignore the reality that, short of the impossible complete elimination of Covid-19, such declines will at some point unavoidably stall. Rather than pointing to this stall, why didn’t you instead note that yesterday the seven-day average of new Covid cases was a mere 25 percent of what it was at its peak on January 8th, while the seven-day average of Covid deaths was only 57 percent of what it was at its peak on January 26th?

In expressing concern about new Covid variants, you ignore both the reality that all RNA viruses mutate, and that there is no evidence yet of any significantly enhanced danger from these mutations.

And you ignore lockdowns’ costs. These include the delay of medical treatment for non-Covid illnesses and injuries, the destruction of livelihoods, and the disruption of civilized life. Another especially noteworthy cost of lockdowns in Texas is their obstruction of routine in-person inspection of that state’s power grids. As reported by NBC, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas – which manages the flow of over 90 percent of that state’s electric power –  “did not conduct any on-site inspections of the state’s power plants to see if they were ready for this winter season. Due to COVID-19 they conducted virtual tabletop exercises instead – but only with 16% of the state’s power generating facilities.”

There is more to life than avoiding death from Covid. Indeed, living only to avoid Covid is unceasingly dreary when it isn’t itself deadly.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030