COVID-19 Benchmarks Never Mattered

A spate of governors has decided to use St. Patrick Day’s once again to murder us all reopen very shortly. While it’s disproportionately Republican guvs, there are a couple of Democrats who clearly don’t want to be left behind.

It should be absolutely clear that benchmarks–that is, data and evidence–never mattered in decision making. Akshually, that’s not entirely correct: any time any single metric improves, no matter how marginally, that’s a perfectly good excuse to let ‘er rip!

Before anyone talks about vaccination, it takes a couple of weeks for partial protection to kick in, and six to seven weeks for ‘full protection’ to occur. While the let ‘er rip strategy might not kill elderly people, there are still plenty of 55 year olds (and younger) who are at risk for hospitalization–and large fraction of people have severe outcomes weeks or months after infection (even when the initial infection wasn’t severe). We probably won’t have the mortality we’ve seen previously since many elderly will be protected, but we could have yet another wave of hospitalizations.

If a governor had announced, “once we reach a prevalence of X daily new cases/100,000 and a percent positive of Y%, we’re going to reduce restrictions”, that would be one thing. But to arbitrarily pick a date out of a hat–though again, many of these dates seem to coincidentally precede big annual events, so they might not be so arbitrary–has no basis in how we’re actually doing. Considering most states are not below the CDC school K-12 reopening threshold of 50 new cases per week per 100,000 people and a percent positive rate of five percent*, there’s no reason why states should reopen. That said, the states that are reopening aren’t even offering reasons. It’s completely evidence free.

I hope I’m wrong, but, like I said about D.C., we should beware the Ides of March (and late March, and April). We might end up with more deaths, and a lot more hospitalizations.

*Less than eight percent is far too permissive, which is what the CDC advises for school reopening.

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