DON’T BE A SCIENCE DENIER: Science says it’s time to start easing the lockdowns.


The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have been enormous, and New York has suffered more than anywhere else in the world. Compared as a separate country, the New York area would rank, by far, as No. 1 for deaths per capita.

The New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tri-state area accounts for approximately 60 percent of all US deaths. Theories abound, but the New York area itself is different: New York is the top port of entry for the hundreds of thousands of tourists coming to the US every month from China; Gotham has a uniquely high density of living that swells daily by millions from workers and tourists; and Manhattan sees some 1.6 million commuters daily, mostly on crowded public transit, including 320,000 from Jersey alone.

Yet the pandemic toll is falling, dramatically so in New York, ­including both hospitalizations and deaths per day. Few doubt that the unprecedented isolation policies had a significant ­impact on “flattening the curves.”

Related: Do Lockdowns Save Many Lives? In Most Places, the Data Say No.

To normalize for an unambiguous comparison of deaths between states at the midpoint of an epidemic, we counted deaths per million population for a fixed 21-day period, measured from when the death rate first hit 1 per million—e.g.,‒three deaths in Iowa or 19 in New York state. A state’s “days to shutdown” was the time after a state crossed the 1 per million threshold until it ordered businesses shut down.

We ran a simple one-variable correlation of deaths per million and days to shutdown, which ranged from minus-10 days (some states shut down before any sign of Covid-19) to 35 days for South Dakota, one of seven states with limited or no shutdown. The correlation coefficient was 5.5%—so low that the engineers I used to employ would have summarized it as “no correlation” and moved on to find the real cause of the problem. (The trendline sloped downward—states that delayed more tended to have lower death rates—but that’s also a meaningless result due to the low correlation coefficient.)

No conclusions can be drawn about the states that sheltered quickly, because their death rates ran the full gamut, from 20 per million in Oregon to 360 in New York.

You don’t say.

Stop shaming people for going outside. The risks are generally low, and the benefits are endless.


h/t SG