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More Out-of-Context Covid Myth-Making

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:


Abdul El-Sayed’s case for tightening Covid-19 restrictions in Michigan is deeply flawed (“Here’s why Michigan’s covid spike is so scary,” April 2). First, he ignores powerful evidence – such as found in this piece by New York Times’s science writer John Tierney – that lockdowns not only have little to no effect on the spread of SARS-CoV-2, but have health effects that are downright detrimental.

Second and worse, El-Sayed fails to compare the trend of Covid cases in Michigan – which had one of the harshest lockdowns and still has a mask mandate – to that of other states without mask mandates and that are otherwise at least as open as is Michigan now. Such comparisons undermine El-Sayed’s case.

Compared to March 1st, the 7-day average of daily new Covid cases in Michigan was, on April 1st, 333 percent higher. By contrast, Texas’s 7-day average of daily new Covid cases on April 1st, was, over the same time period, 52 percent lower. Readers will recall on March 2nd Texas governor Greg Abbott eliminated all statewide Covid restrictions.

Or look at Florida, a state (in)famous for its relaxed attitude toward Covid. Despite a slight upward trend over the past two weeks, it’s 7-day average of daily new Covid cases was, on April 1st, 2.4% lower than on March 1st. What about other states (in)famous for their relaxed attitudes toward Covid?

South Dakota did see a 20 percent rise in Covid cases over this time period, although the trend there over the past week has been downward. Mississippi enjoyed a fall in cases of 64 percent, and Oklahomafall of 55 percent.

Further, in all of these other states save South Dakota (which has seen a slight uptick) hospitalizations over the past month have fallen steadily, in contrast to the major uptick in Michigan’s hospitalizations. Finally, three of these five states – Florida, Texas, and Mississippi – have vaccination rates lower than Michigan’s vaccination rate.

Contrary to El-Sayed’s argument, failure to lockdown more tightly is not responsible for rising Covid cases.

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


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