I’m going to take a lot of heat for this from Dopers but I think it’s a rational, reasonable position. Until recently I have moderately supported the various lockdowns but that changed when I saw this data on COVID-19 deaths in Massachusetts as reported by the Boston Globe: https://www.boston.com/news/coronavirus/2020/04/27/massachusetts-covid-19-deaths (note: the article was originally from May but it’s updated frequently). I consider the Boston Globe to be a reputable source but if you have a good site that contradicts it I’d love to see it.
Before I give my rationale, lets start with two tragic, incontrovertible facts:
- Nearly 130k people have died of COVID. This is grandmothers and fathers, siblings, friends, and coworkers. More will continue to die. This sucks.
- The lockdowns have caused tens of millions of people to lose their jobs, mostly lower-wage and working class; if the lockdowns continue the losses may become permanent. Schools at all levels have been closed, delaying or retarding the education of 50+ millions more. Millennials and Zoomers will be paying taxes on the relief packages for years. This sucks.
Outside of a vaccine, I don’t know of any plan or policy that can reduce both of these catastrophes. Anything that reduces one by a non-trivial amount will raise the other. If we had reacted sooner we might have been able to isolate the infections but we didn’t and nothing will change that now.
Back to the Boston Globe article, there are two stats that stick out to me:
Average age of death: 81
Percentage of deaths with underlying conditions: 98%
There are some caveats (which I’ll get to later) but this data seems to indicate that we can target lockdowns/quarantines to an easily identifiable population, especially with regards to underlying conditions: 98%! So,
- If you are over 70, stay the fuck home.
- If you are 50+ with an underlying condition, stay the fuck home.
- If you live with or work closely with someone in the above two groups, stay the fuck home.
- If you are not in the above groups, go about your life with moderate precautions: wash your hands, work from home if you can, and wear a fucking mask.
If we aggressively quarantine just those with the highest risk factors we can save jobs and education while largely protecting lives. It’s not perfect and it will probably end up with more deaths than a general lockdown. I think it’s worth it.
Now for the caveats in the data, and there are two:
- It doesn’t go into details about what are the underlying conditions. If, say, 80% of Americans have an underlying condition then it’s largely a worthless stat.
- The data is known for roughly half the deaths. It’s possible that the number of deaths without underlying conditions is much higher.
There are still plenty of things to work out, like what to do with students who live with at-risk parents or teachers who are at-risk. In the end, however, I think it’s reasonable to limit the lockdowns to just a smaller population.