Experts Think The Economy Would Be Stronger If COVID-19 Lockdowns Had Been More Aggressive

“our economic survey, conducted in partnership with the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, FiveThirtyEight polled 32 quantitative macroeconomists about the present and future of the economy. And because we couldn’t resist some Monday-morning quarterbacking, we also asked whether the lockdowns earlier in the year were too aggressive or not aggressive enough.

Out of those surveyed, 74 percent of economists said the U.S. would be in a better economic position now if lockdowns had been more aggressive at the beginning of the crisis. Among that camp, the most commonly cited reason was that early control over the virus would have allowed a smoother and more comprehensive return to economic activity later on.”

“Proponents of tighter lockdowns pointed to Japan and various European countries (such as Germany, Norway and Denmark) as examples of how reducing the virus to extremely low levels early on allowed for a quicker recovery. Others noted that children could have returned to school for in-person learning faster with earlier control over the virus — a major consideration in maximizing the country’s economic power as it bounces back from the pandemic.

Among the 26 percent who thought lockdowns should have been less aggressive, the main theme was that more good could have been done with a targeted approach that protected at-risk populations and stopped potential superspreading events, while allowing more activity overall. Others thought the lockdowns didn’t even matter much, or that most of the reduced activity was due to individual self-regulation rather than government intervention.”

“In the same vein — but this time, looking forward — we asked the economists to imagine a new shutdown had to occur as the result of a spike in COVID-19 cases. Which activities would they shut down first if they also wanted to minimize economic damage? With the caveat that our panel consists of economic experts — not epidemiologists — they clearly prioritized indoor dining (and to a lesser extent, gyms) to be the first shut down, while outdoor dining and recreation were at the bottom of the list “

Lockdowns worked. Now what?

“Flattening the curve through social distancing has worked in restraining Covid-19’s growth, according to new research published in Health Affairs.”

“The goal of flattening the curve was to prevent local health systems from becoming overwhelmed, which could have led to even higher fatalities than the US has already seen (about 90,000, as of Monday morning). Even New York City, the hardest-hit place in the country, has not seen its hospitals overrun in any kind of systemic way.
Take together the reduced spread through social distancing and the medical system being able to meet the Covid-19 need, and there is solid evidence that flattening the curve has worked.”

““In principle, the measures also bought time to develop a more effective testing and contact tracing infrastructure, although we will see whether that actually has been achieved as states start to reopen.””