An unbelievable op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times (LAT) states that quarantines and lockdowns during the pandemic not only “saved lives” but “didn’t hurt the economy.” The piece seems to mock, above all, the small business owners and employees who were left without income.
The text written by business columnist Michael Hiltzik notes that “lockdowns played a significant role in reducing infection rates” and that they “they had a very modest role in producing economic damage”, two assertions that actually contradict the facts and the science.
The fault of Americans?
“There’s very little evidence that lockdowns themselves damaged local economies more than individual behavior that would have happened anyway, lockdowns or not. Nor is there much evidence that lifting lockdowns produced a faster recovery,” notes Hiltzik, who further adds that “the vast majority of the economic depression was due to consumers choosing of their own volition to avoid commercial activity.”
Hiltzik, however, contradicts himself: yes, there was a reduction in commercial activity and there was also an economic depression, the difference is that he holds consumers responsible and not those who imposed fines and restrictions to close most businesses during the pandemic.
For the Los Angeles Times, the economic downturn is the responsibility of Americans who decided on their own to avoid commercial activity, but ignores that cities like New York or California imposed penalties of up to $500 for citizens who violate the social distancing rule levied to “curb the coronavirus.”
In short, Hiltzik and LAT blame the economic downturn on Americans who were threatened with fines if they chose to leave. Moreover, another contradiction surfaces: there was economic depression because Americans locked themselves out, so did the lockouts affect the economy or not?
It seems that the Los Angeles Times lacks evidence, so here is some data that disprove their assertions.
Confinements, curfews and mandatory pandemic lockdowns cut 3.5% of the US Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA); and on the other hand, a major consequence of this was that the United States had -according to information from Bloomberg- the highest number of companies declared bankrupt since 2009 and about 100,000 companies closed permanently.
In fact, employment figures in New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed fines on businessmen and citizens for failing to comply with pandemic regulations, showed that the city has the second highest unemployment rate in the country (8.9%), after the state of Hawaii (9.2%) and just ahead of Connecticut and California (8.5%); this, according to an article by Mario Marroquín for Iohud, while in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis decided to free the economy, unemployment is below 5%.
To the economic data, we must add the physical, moral and psychological damage caused by the draconian measures. A study by economist Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago reveals that it was the sanitation protocols that reduced the number of contagions, not the mandatory lockdowns.
“Available data from schools, hospitals, nursing homes, food processing plants, hair stylists, and airlines,” (…)show employers adopting mitigation protocols in the spring of 2020,” he notes, while homes were places less likely to implement the same precautions.
According to the study, “an hour worked in the Duke Health system went from being more dangerous than an hour outside work to being more than three times safer.”
“Both the spread data and the prevalence data suggest that the prevention efforts worked, or at least that something about the organization keeps infection rates below what they are outside the organization,” it concludes.
The text indicates, then, that it was not the confinements, the threats of fines, nor the curfews that reduced the contagions, it was the prevention and the activation of the economy, which, contrary to what Hiltzik says, improved the country’s outlook.
In addition, there are data that reveal that although in the world some confinements were effective, specifically in the United States there was no need for so many restrictions. In states where there were no strict closures, the cases of contagion did not increase; while in cities with greater restrictions the COVID-19 figures did worsen.
For example, in California, the Democratic governor Gavin Newsom established a strict confinement, and even so, there were record numbers of cases and deaths from coronavirus; on the other hand, in states such as Texas or Florida, where the measures were relaxed, there were fewer infections and deaths in the pandemic.
In April, Texas and Florida registered fewer cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) than Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York, according to official data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Texas had as many as a quarter as many cases as Michigan, even though it had no restrictions and 20 million more people.
All this proves that the Los Angeles Times is lying; at least in the United States, confinements did hurt the economy, they did not in all cases save lives, and the states with the most freedom were proven right.
Children fell behind in their classes and suffered psychological damage from the lockdowns, executive orders like Cuomo’s would have caused the deaths of hundreds of seniors and the economy fell to dismal numbers and all this, not because Americans decided to stay home, but because they were actually forced to do so.