Costs of Covid Lockdowns and Mask Mandates Exceeded Benefits

(p. A15) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention belatedly admitted failure this week. “For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for Covid-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” Director Rochelle Walensky said. She vowed to establish an “action-oriented culture.”

. . .

U.S. states with more-restrictive policies fared no better, on average, than states with less-restrictive policies. There’s still no convincing evidence that masks provided any significant benefits. When case rates throughout the pandemic are plotted on a graph, the trajectory in states with mask mandates is virtually identical to the trajectory in states without mandates. (The states without mandates actually had slightly fewer Covid deaths per capita.) International comparisons yield similar results. A Johns Hopkins University meta-analysis of studies around the world concluded that lockdown and mask restrictions have had “little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality.”

. . .

In 2006 he and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh considered an array of proposed measures to deal with a virus as deadly as the 1918 Spanish flu.

Should schools be closed? Should everyone wear face masks in public places? Should those exposed to an infection be required to quarantine at home? Should public-health officials rely on computer models of viral spread to impose strict limitations on people’s movements? In each case, the answer was no, because there was no evidence these measures would make a significant difference.

“Experience has shown,” Henderson’s team concluded, “that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted.” The researchers specifically advised leaders not to be guided by computer models, because no model could reliably predict the effects of the measures or take into account the “devastating” collateral damage. If leaders overreacted and panicked the public, “a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.”

This advice was subsequently heeded in the pre-Covid pandemic plans prepared by the CDC and other public-health agencies. The WHO’s review of the scientific literature concluded that there was “no evidence” that universal masking “is effective in reducing transmission.” The CDC’s pre-2020 planning scenarios didn’t recommend universal masking or extended school and business closures even during a pandemic as severe as the 1918 Spanish flu.

For the full commentary see:

John Tierney. “Fauci and Walensky Double Down on Failure.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Aug. 19, 2022): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date August 18, 2022, and has the title “Fauci and Walensky Double Down on Failed Covid Response.”)

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