We know now and, indeed, we could have known back in March 2020, that most of these self-limits were overreactions, at least for those under age 60. The data from Italy showed an extreme gradient in death rates from COVID-19. A study of COVID-19 fatalities published on March 23, 2020 (Onder, Rezza, and Brusaferro, 2020), showed no fatalities for people under age 30, only 4 fatalities for people aged 30 to 39, 53 fatalities for people 40 to 59, 139 fatalities for people 60 to 69, 578 fatalities for people 70 to 79, and 850 fatalities for people aged 80 or above. That means that the median age of death from COVID-19 in Italy was above 80. And, of course, getting back to the athletic examples, virtually all the athletes in the three organizations mentioned above were under age 40 and almost all were under age 30.
These overreactions were due to two things: (1) people’s own attitudes to risk and their innumeracy about death rates and (2) the incessant media hyping about the dangers of COVID. Still, the advantage of leaving the decision in people’s own hands and letting them be free to choose was that they could get new information and act on it. Indeed, that’s what people in many areas did when allowed to. In June 2020, for example, California’s government, which had imposed one of the harshest lockdowns, allowed bars to open for a few weeks. And, wonder of wonders, many people, especially young people, who were at little risk, started going to bars again.