Lockdown's Broken "Eggs" But No "Omelette"

Tophattingson - [original thread]

Zeynep Tufekci has a brilliant article about ‘how polarisation ate our brains’ with regards covid. The article mainly deals with covid stupidity on the left. Rather than try to develop a coherent understanding of how the disease can be managed, it decides it will adopt a mirror image of right wing covid denialism. Thus, all conspiracy theories regarding Florida’s covid stats must be believed by ‘our side’, and masks aren’t just a useful tool in some circumstances, but a talisman.

This reaction isn't random, "the left" mirroring "the right", or even well explained by polarisation. Believing that non-lockdown states have engaged in statistical manipulation is likely required in any defence of lockdown policy in the US (unless you are advocating for it with blue and orange morality).

Note the motivated reasoning in this Orlando Weekly article: DeSantis is terrible, therefore his policies must be terrible, and therefore there must be a high number of deaths in Florida. If that’s not the case, the reasoning goes, then they must be hiding their numbers.

This misses the bit that comes before "DeSantis is terrible", as clearly not all republican governers are uniformly dealing with this sort of accusation. That missing part is that DeSantis is terrible because he went anti-lockdown.

The empirical results are in. There's no discernible difference in covid deaths per capita between lockdown states and non-lockdown states. The article makes this clear for Florida vs California, but even so it does so begrudgingly, describing it's outcome as "middling". Moderate deaths with minimal restrictions sounds like a pretty good deal to me, but that's a different topic... This result generalises across all US states. This is a pretty damning outcome, because it means lockdowns have broke a ton of "eggs" but have no "omelette" to show for it. The full scale of the damage done by the policy could fill tens of thousands of pages, so I won't go into the details on that beyond stating that lockdowns need to have at least some visible benefit to be a good idea.

This then demands ad hoc reasoning. Somehow Florida must have actually done badly, and covered up it's results. Or maybe it's coverup is in excess deaths, and since we're making an ad hoc argument we will ignore other states also have excess deaths. But even the article itself doesn't untangle itself from making ad hoc arguments, because it seems to excessively kowtow to the blue state line on covid even when the consequences of doing so are screaming off the page. The article almost gets it but seems to keep shying away from the radioactive conclusion.

How much of this is its middling guidelines, how much of this is the weather advantage, how much of this just luck? It’s not yet fully clear.

Generally if the benefits of a destructive policy are either unclear or undetectable, you should avoid it.

and at least in the United States, the damage done by the political parties to fighting the pandemic is clearly not equal

Yes, but not in the way the author of the piece implies.

Note also: Demonstrating that Florida did slightly worse than otherwise because they didn't do lockdowns would still fail to be a defence of lockdowns. It would take more than the few thousand deaths being quibbled about by these articles. Obsessive number crunching might be able to squeeze out something saying Florida did slightly worse, but there's no way to reconcile the actual empirical results with the needs that lockdown prevent an order of magnitude worse catastrophe to even potentially be worthwhile.