WSJ: The data are in …

Compelling for “group distancing”, not so much for shelter-in-place

According to a WSJ op-ed…

Four new analyses of actual results show how the initial projections overestimated the value of lockdowns.

Fortunately, economists no longer have to rely on inherently flawed projections. They can use real data.

In what might turn out to be the best paper on the economics of Covid-19, a team of economists from the University of California, Berkeley carefully evaluated empirical data on social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, and lives saved.

And, here’s what the real data is saying…


According to the WSJ

Social-distancing measures reduced person-to-person contact by about 50%, while harsher shelter-in-place rules reduced contact by only an additional 5%.

Why is that?

There are “breaches” in the shelter-at-home firewall.

Each “nest” has one or more people who leave leave the nest each day to run errands or go to work.

On average, these people come in close contact with 10 potentially infectious people.  Then, they come back to the nest, potentially spreading the virus to the rest of the flock.


Even if shelter-at-home does reduce viral spread, it doesn’t  so much reduce Covid-19 deaths as delay them.

Delaying deaths will reduce them if a vaccine or cure is found in time.

But we can’t be sure that an effective vaccine will be produced and available any time soon.


“To socially distance or not to socially distance” is not the question. The question should be, what policies actually make sense?

To address that question, a team of economists from MIT recently published the results of a study that compared various alternative strategies for limiting the spread of Covid-19.

Their broad conclusion:

Twice as many lives could be saved if governments focused policies on protecting the most vulnerable people and isolating the most infectious.

Specifically, they recommend: “group distancing”:  reducing interactions between the most vulnerable groups and the rest of the population … and, “test & trace” to isolate the most infectious from the rest of the population.

Again, their data-based conclusion: do those things right and a wall-to-wall lockdown is unnecessary … and apparently counter-productive.


One Response to “WSJ: The data are in …”

  1. Los Says:

    I wouldn’t “shelter in place” if Americans weren’t so careless and they actually did practice “social distancing.” In other words, a better comparison would be infection rates of folks actually practicing both bs folks doing a half assed job

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