School closures and lockdowns are the only interventions that reduced spread of COVID-19 in U.S. states, study finds. Limiting public events to fewer than 100 people had no effect. No state had an estimated Rt below 1.0 before lockdown, but 29 states reached an Rt below 1.0 after lockdown.

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One thing about this study is that it lumps a whole lot of measures under “lockdown”, which can actually be a very different policy in different jurisdictions. So it’s not really a good way to quantify the relative effect of closing different kinds of businesses (e.g. bookstores vs. restaurants) or the effect of other policies that might be included in lockdown, like mask mandates. It seems to me that it might be better, instead of a second lockdown, to target the high-risk situations (e.g. indoor dining and indoor social gatherings) that we now think, based on other data, are the main reasons that lockdowns work. It may also be that a lockdown is more effective for psychological reasons. The government doesn’t have good direct control over private indoor gatherings, and it may be that the word “lockdown” scares some people out of doing them. Nonetheless, I feel like it should be possible to term restrictions a “lockdown” without closing low-risk businesses like bookstores. I do also want to note that the study doesn’t show that the other measures are not effective at all. It just couldn’t show a statistically significant effect from them. So it’s possible that they do work a little bit. The most important conclusion I drew is that they are not sufficient on their own to contain the disease.


The data this model is based on are from Feb 29 to April 25 when the outbreak was primarily localized in the North East. The number of deaths is on the order of 100 for only a handful of states, with the vast majority having single digits. This was at the beginning of our recognition of the virus, and doesn’t necessarily tell us how these interventions fare after the virus has been more widespread. Also, from a public policy standpoint, and to the author’s credit, they recognize this: > Second, the assumption that interventions are binary, instantaneous, and non-harmful are strong assumptions and oversimplifications that do not account for time-varying compliance with intervention or unintended consequences.


Note, this paper only looks at the “various social distancing interventions” attempted by various governments, not other things like mask wearing. Wear a mask. For such a cheap, simple, and widely-available thing, it’s incredibly effective.


It’s strange that we are reluctant to admit that large groups congregating, such as in schools, contributes to the spread of a virus. At some point, we should consider basing our approach on facts, rather than incorporating layman speculation into the solution. Eventually, we’ll be forced to do so, doing it early will save lives.


Why are we forcing schools to open so close to a readily available vaccine? Teachers under 50 just got pushed way back down the line for vaccines too.