- Oct 23, 2012
- Reaction score
All of it, The New York Times assumes.
"If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak," the paper reports. "And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than most people started staying home, the vast majority of the nation's deaths—about 83 percent—would have been avoided, the researchers estimated." The "cost of waiting to take action," the Times concludes, was "enormous."
Already we see a problem with the way the Times has framed the issue, since "the United States" never "impos[ed] social distancing measures," and "the country" never "lock[ed] down cities and limit[ed] social contact." Instead of a single national response to COVID-19, we have seen a wide variety of local and state responses.
Worse, by conflating social distancing not only with coercive government interventions but with the most sweeping kind, the Times ignores everything else that was happening as politicians decided how to fight the epidemic. Americans were learning about the threat posed by the COVID-19 virus, especially to people with serious preexisting medical conditions, and they were reacting accordingly. They were taking to heart advice about avoiding crowds, minimizing travel and social contact, and working at home when feasible. The same scary increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths that motivated politicians to impose lockdowns also motivated people throughout the country to take precautions. . . .
Do you know what else happened "in association with social distancing and other control measures"? People eventually started moving around more, even while they were still subject to lockdowns. Beginning in late March and early April, the charts show, "inter-county human movement" rose dramatically in all six metropolitan areas. Cellphone data likewise show a nationwide increase in mobility during this period.
Similarly, survey data from Gallup indicate that Americans started getting out more between late March and early May. The share of respondents who said they were completely or mostly isolating themselves—defined as limiting "contact" with people outside their households—fell from 75 percent in late March and early April to 58 percent in early May. That number fell both in states that had lifted their COVID-19 lockdowns as of May 4 and in states that were maintaining them, although the drop was bigger in the less restricted states.