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The Futility of COVID Policy-Making May 25, 2021

Posted by geoff in News.

It’s pretty clear that we don’t understand many aspects of COVID-19, like its transmission, its survivability outside the body, its effects, and why some people shrug it off while others die (…and its origin, heh). We won’t fully understand these things until long after it ceases to be a threat.

But I think I can say with at least a little authority that until we started vaccinating, nothing we did mattered all that much. Closures, curfews, re-openings, masks, distancing; these policies varied from state to state, but how did they affect the transmission of the disease?

Not so much:

I apologize for the horrible quality of this graph – I copied it directly from the CDC’s site. In any case, you can see that the six most populous states are all within +/- 10% of each other. Michigan, who is ranked 7th in population (you can only plot 6 for some reason), is pretty close to Texas.

Similarly, if you plot cumulative cases for metropolitan vs. non-metropolitan victims, you get no difference. All roads lead to the same place.

Without doing some real work (which I am oh so loathe to do), all I can say is that it seems like COVID cases are not transmission-limited, they are victim limited. That means that the virus made its rounds with little impact from our various policies, taking root in the 10% of the population (so far) who were susceptible.

This is not to say that throwing everything you have at the virus was an inherently bad idea, but that the lockdown policies should have been critiqued and updated much earlier in the pandemic. Sadly, those policies have assumed a religious status among some, so that was not possible.


1. Bunk Strutts - May 25, 2021

The second graph could use some enhancement – I only see two lines out of three – but the point is made. I saw another graph today that showed the progress of the ‘vid cases in Japan, a country with almost 98% mask compliance. Mask are amazingly effective… for something.


2. Bunk Strutts - May 25, 2021

Try this link instead.

3. geoff - May 25, 2021

The “Metropolitan” and “All Counties” lines are almost on top of one another.

4. Bunk Strutts - May 28, 2021

Gotcha. I see it now.

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