A new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by Bentley University economist Dhaval Dave and two co-authors concludes that there has been no statistically significant impact resulting from Governor Greg Abbot’s March decision to finally abide by his oath to the US and Texas constitutions and lift COVID occupancy, and mask mandates.
No doubt, this will cause chagrin among leftists in Congress, the White House, various state governments, and the dinosaur “news” media.
After Texas became the first state to eliminate both its face mask mandate and its business occupancy limits in early March, President Joe Biden said the decision reflected ‘Neanderthal thinking.’ Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, described Gov. Greg Abbott's order as ‘extraordinarily dangerous,’ warning that it ‘will kill Texans.’
Meanwhile, lockdown princes like NY Governor Andrew Cuomo were battling staggering COVID-19 death stats even as he battled to massage the news that his government appeared to try to manipulate stats, because they could be attributed to his mismanagement of symptomatic COVID carriers.
And bureaucrats were in fits over Abbot’s decision. Notes Sullum:
“Anthony Fauci, Biden's top COVID-19 adviser, said lifting mask mandates ‘is really quite risky,’ because ‘when you pull back on measures of public health, invariably you've seen a surge’ in cases and deaths. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said she had a ‘recurring feeling’ of ‘impending doom,’ warning that premature relaxation of ‘public health prevention strategies’ could lead to a ‘fourth surge.’
It turns out that NOT taking Fauci seriously seems to have no statistically significant effect on case or death numbers for COVID-19. Writes Sullum:
’We find no evidence that the Texas reopening led to substantial changes in social mobility, including foot traffic at a wide set of business establishments in Texas,’ Bentley University economist Dhaval Dave and his two co-authors report in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. ‘We find no evidence that the Texas reopening affected the rate of new COVID-19 cases during the five weeks following the reopening.’ They say their findings ‘underscore the limits of late-pandemic era COVID-19 reopening policies to alter private behavior.’
And this lends even more credence to the corollary of the Texas study, this being the already-credible information that researchers at reputable institutions such as the American Institute for Economic Research released months ago: lockdowns have had no appreciable salutary effect in slowing the spread of the disease or reducing its already low lethality.
Essentially, lockdowns, which are an unprecedented policy in the history of public health, provide little noticeable benefit over the more traditional public health responses which are less intrusive. That is because generally speaking people act rationally and it’s impossible to coercively push society beyond its natural limits without major drawbacks.
And, looking at the National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Sullum notes:
’We find that the Texas reopening had little impact on stay-at-home behavior or on foot traffic at numerous business locations, including restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, retail establishments, business services, personal care services, and grocery stores,’ Dave et al. write. ‘We find no evidence that the reopening affected the rate of new COVID-19 cases in the five-week period following the reopening. In addition, we find that state-level COVID-19 mortality rates were unaffected by the March 10 reopening.’
But the effect of lockdowns on livelihoods, lives, and friendships has been devastating, so devastating, in fact, that one wishes Abbot had moved sooner to conform with the US and Texas constitutions, which prohibit this kind of interference in private life and voluntary market exchange.
He has changed his mind, and Texans are enjoying more of their freedom now, but a man is not free if another man can claim to attenuate his liberty at any time, and Abbot should apologize for his grievous errors of 2020, even as he celebrates the hope that Texans can recover from the damage he has already done.