Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Covid Costs

The Quillette article about covid costs, The Months The earth Stood Still isn't bad.  I think it tries to be balanced and see things in perspective.

In recent years, the closest we have come to such a collective accord, or scare, on this Earth of ours may have been the COVID pandemic of 2020–22. As various governments and leaders have declared that the worst phase of the danger has now passed, we can begin to make a tentative appraisal of how the crisis will be seen by history. Of course, new evaluations of the Great Depression, the Black Death, and the Roman Empire are still emerging today, and any verdict on the pandemic may likewise defer to the inexorable passage of time. Nevertheless, a few early reflections can be offered now.

But there's still that piece that nags at me, that counting the cost includes everything that happened, but the attribution for it is focused almost entirely on government actions. Much of this is fair.  School closings were in the hands of the local governments, often acting in concert with other levels of government. But given what people were deciding on their own, even if the schools had remained open there would have many children kept out by their parents, switched voluntarily to home schooling, and a great deal of switching-over energy would have been spent. The same is true of restaurants and bars. They would have had many fewer customers in any event, and more than the usual amount would have gone under. Without a government mandate some churches would have stayed open. But many which were not under mandate did close or switch to online anyway. The cruise industry closed before anyone mandated anything, even though they are set up to fly under a variety of flags and regulations as needed, but didn't want the deaths they saw from a few voyages to be associated with their brands. The restrictions in various ports mattered, but were not determinative.

One could add in the influence of government information with some fairness. A few people took it at face value, many people regarded it as essentially the best information, and even the skeptics noticed it and took some consideration of it. But even as governments were relying on that information to make their decisions - because wrongful-death lawsuits -  people were challenging it, evading it, ignoring it. It was big, but not all-encompassing.

The supply-chain problems were hugely international, and would have occurred here even if all levels of American government had gone anarchic and restricted nothing.  Businesses that went down because of supply chain issues would have largely gone down anyway. 

It's just one of those shorthand ways of thinking that bothers me, and it has happened consistently right from the start. It seems similar to our blaming the federal government for everything, when it is often the local government that can make things really unhappy for you with zoning, selective enforcement, unresponsiveness, and poor services. Real life is complicated, but we want to put our complaints in a tight package for portability. Our president is in! Life is good! The Supreme Court leans to our side more often! We are winning, comrade, we are winning! If only.


Anonymous said...

Your freedoms killed a million people. One of the worst results in the world, for deaths per million.

james said...

I guess he uses "government" as a shorthand for the different levels of government (Dane County mandated masks long after other counties had said "never mind") and the media. From what some of our legislators said, I gather they got their information and direction from mainstream media. Influence runs both ways, and it doesn't seem crazy to lump them together.

Mike Guenther said...

They weren't all attributable to COVID. Some were excessive deaths from Cancer that couldn't be treated because of archaic hospital rules put into place. I would venture to say some were from the various strains of the Flu...we didn't hear anything about the flu for two years. Now it's this year's big thing again. There were strains on mental health, ergo an uptick in suicides. Probably counted in a different way, but homicides were way up, also could be attributable to COVID.

We don't know and probably will never know the true statistics.

Anonymous said...

China lost its first person to die of Covid, in 6 months.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

As to the flu, the lack of flu deaths tracks pretty well with the decreased contact. No need to speculate that very many of the covid deaths were really influenza. Even at worst years, flu deaths are only a small percentage of what we lost to covid.

For the other pieces, yes I think they could be difficult to count.

Zachriel said...

In addition, there is a test for influenza, and with nearly a million tests in 2020-21, the rate of influenza was much lower than normal.