The Indicator from Planet Money - A Smarter Approach To Lockdowns

The coronavirus has put millions of people out of work. Greg Ip talks about his recent article in the Wall Street Journal and argues that lockdowns are "an overly blunt and economically costly tool."

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he wanted to Cardiff. This is the indicator from Planet Money hundreds of millions of jobs have been lost throughout the world because of the coronavirus pandemic about 11 million of those jobs lost right here in the US and one obvious reason for all the economic damage. Is it government had to lock down big part of their economies to slow the spread of the virus when the pandemic started lot of these measures are pretty familiar by now restaurants and shops and non-essential businesses being closed a lot of countries going even further and restricting people to staying home all day, but it's been about half a year since the first lockdowns began. So what are we actually learned about whether these lockdowns are the right tools to fight a virus taking spread. So aggressively reggae up is the chief economics commentator at the Wall Street Journal and he just finished article in which argues that yes. There are in fact better less economically destructive less blunt methods for fighting.

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Headed to use a better understanding of risk and likely reward then we had when the pandemic started. So today on the show a chat with bread yet right after a quick break.

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Greg hip what are the podcast man? Thanks for having my car read your article remind me that at the beginning of the covid-19 here in the US and there was actually a lot of confusion about the specific goals of the lockdown measures that ended up being implemented and it seems like that is a pretty important part of understanding. What are those lockdown measures were the right ones or the wrong ones? That's exactly right Rodney speaking their two approaches. You can take to an epidemic like this one is suppression. You drive the number of new infections down to zero that is a very poor Conan approach and requires being locked down very thoroughly for a very long time. That's the approach to China and New Zealand took the alternate strategy is mitigation also known as flat in the curve, which means that you don't fully lockdown you just try and hold infection is low enough that they don't overwhelm your Healthcare System. That's the policy of Sweden Pursuit eventually enough of your population is expected.

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Boosted. Stop the spreading we call that herd immunity and sounded like we were going to go for suppression. But then after just six to eight weeks of lockdown we started to get tired of that lift the lockdown and then the epidemic took off again and is substantially ended up with the worst of Both Worlds. We ended up to the economic arm of a lockdown by the uncontrolled pandemic of you know, and mitigation herd immunity strategy natural follow-up question. That is what's a better alternative until you make this point in the article that a lockdown is not this one thing that there are literally dozens of measures that can constitute a lockdown. So things like closing schools are closing stores or telling people to stay at home and that what's needed is a way to evaluate each individual.

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Number 1 by whether or not that measures good at reducing infections and reducing the spread of the virus. And the number to how economically damaging is that measure and he's the very model that a couple of Harvard academics that I interviewed have come up with one of them in the condiment one of those an epidemiologist optimize the most effective reduction infections of the laws. You can have a cough and look some of these things we are not really going to surprise you very much we know for example that this particular pandemic is very dangerous for the elderly and not dangerous at all for children. What's that? Tell us? Well, it tells us that we should be putting a lot more effort into protecting nursing homes, which it will save a lot of lies, but not be very economically costly. It also suggests that it should be safe in most circumstances to reopen schools first free sample elementary schools.

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That doesn't mean you open schools during hot spots when the disease is quite dangerous, but it does suggest that opening schools with your correct protective equipment in place and social distancing measures should not be terribly risky because we know the children are in fact less likely to die from this disease and they are from flu according to these measures and the best information we have so far is that they do not tend to spread it to teachers. What else do we know? Well, there's a lot of evidence that the small number of so-called super spreader events accounts for an exceptionally large number of infections. The state of Louisiana for example has been tracking exactly what types of venues produce these sources super spreader events, lo and behold roughly a third of outbreaks in Louisiana are associated with restaurants bars and casinos similarly in Japan the single largest source of outbreaks was far as restaurants in karaoke para parlors that closing those types of music, but it's

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Not going to Cripple the overall economy and it should be very effective at containing the virus. Finally. We seem to have pretty good evidence that the widespread use of face mask is really effective at slowing the transmission of the disease. It seems to be the secret ingredient why so many East Asian countries like South Korea Hong Kong Singapore and Japan have done. So well, there's now a variety of studies the do suggested introduction of masks have helped slow the spread of the disease and one of the great things about match that doesn't stop you from going out and actually interacting in the economy a very low-cost. It's it's one of those interventions that appears to have very low income of a cost with a very large payoff in terms of health and great one of the advantages that you write about trying to evaluate individual measures rather than thinking in terms of a total lockdown versus no lock down a tall is it you end up with these sort of natural experiments like we're different countries are different states.

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Turn and learn over time which measures were well and which don't as they actually try them out. And in fact you write that we are getting something like these experiments now in places like California and Arizona specifically Western States was that after the initial lockdowns were lifted. They were lifted to sort of like broadly and we had that second wave of infection. None of these dates interesting part stores offering like 25% capacity, but they didn't cancel elective surgeries. I didn't tell people you couldn't go to the beach or go to the park or anything like that and in the case of Arizona, they took an even mild reproach and in both those states you have now seen infections and hospitalizations plummet back to the levels. They were before the second wave begin. In fact, I think in the case of

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Arizona they're actually lower. So what does that tell us that tells us that we seem to have come across a formula that does actually get control of the virus but does not require a total locked out of the economy. Now, this is the point when you have to say watch this space because these places are starting to reopen so California now has a series of a criteria heat County must meet before they can open up so San Diego County Orange County San Francisco county the three very large highly populated jurisdictions. They've now already reached that stage where they are restaurants can reopen for imprisoned dining most of their retail establishments can open it lower capacity. But we do have to see what happens when you take off again, you know, perhaps a word of caution is necessary here, even though I think there's a strong strong case of the target approach that we've been talking about. It's still not suppression. It's still not getting infections down to zero.

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Can until you achieve suppression you can never really let your guard down because the infection the virus is always out there and you're always going to be at risk of an outbreak and you have to keep an eye on that.

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Craig and thanks so much for having Cardiff drinks to the research Greg cited in today's episode will be at NPR. Org money is episode of the indicator was produced by Brittany Cronin. In fact check by Sean said the indicators edited by Patty Hirsch into the production of NPR.

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