Jeffrey Tucker looks back at the 1957-58 Asian flu pandemic: there were no lockdowns. A slice: The Asian flu of 1957-58 was a deadly pandemic with a broader reach for severe outcomes than Covid-19 of 2020. It killed between 1 and 4 million people worldwide, and 116,000 in the US in a time with half the population. It was a leading contributor to a year in which the US saw 62,000 excess deaths. Globally, it might have been five times as deadly as Covid-19, as measured by deaths per capita. It was unusually lethal for younger people: 40 percent of deaths had occurred among people younger than 65, whereas the average age of death Covid-19 is 80 with only 10-20% of deaths under the age of 65. What’s striking is how public health officials handled the pandemic. It had a diametrically
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The Asian flu of 1957-58 was a deadly pandemic with a broader reach for severe outcomes than Covid-19 of 2020. It killed between 1 and 4 million people worldwide, and 116,000 in the US in a time with half the population. It was a leading contributor to a year in which the US saw 62,000 excess deaths.
Globally, it might have been five times as deadly as Covid-19, as measured by deaths per capita. It was unusually lethal for younger people: 40 percent of deaths had occurred among people younger than 65, whereas the average age of death Covid-19 is 80 with only 10-20% of deaths under the age of 65.
What’s striking is how public health officials handled the pandemic. It had a diametrically opposite response than policymakers pursued in 2020. One might assume that this was due to negligence and a lack of sophistication in understanding the need to lockdown. Surely they didn’t know 65 years ago what we know today!
Actually, this is completely false. Public health experts did in fact consider school closures, business closures, and a ban of public events but the entire ethos of the profession rejected them. There were two grounds for this rejection: lockdowns would be too disruptive, disabling the capacity of medical professionals to deal competently with the crisis, and also because such policies would be futile because the virus was already here and spreading.
In hindsight, as bad as the pandemic has been, it never even approached the dismal numbers suggested ‒ the very numbers that rationalized society-wide lockdowns in Italy, the U.K., New York City, and then in many other places as the pandemic spread.
What researchers have struggled with since then is how to measure the impact of various actions taken. Do we even know if what we’re doing is working? Where’s the evidence for that, and are there other things we ought to do instead?
Naturally, proponents of lockdowns have long said that strong government action prevented all kinds of horrors. If anything, the poor outcomes we had in the spring and the fall indicated that we didn’t do enough. Skeptics, on the other hand, said that lockdowns did nothing but harm our societies ‒ physically, economically, and mentally ‒ and that infection rate curves moved the way they did regardless of what strong-worded politicians implemented, and often before their strong policies took effect. The August NBER paper by Andrew Atkeson, Karen Kopecky and Tao Zha, ‘Four Stylized Facts about COVID-19’ spells out the uncomfortable position for most policy-makers: the virus seems to spread rapidly, kill selectively, and in no way responds to anything that well-meaning politicians have thrown at it.
Wisdom from Lord Sumption. A slice:
What is a police state? It is a state in which individuals are answerable to the police for the most routine acts of daily life. It is a state in which the police and not the law decide what is allowed. It is a state in which people have to hide their doings from their neighbours for fear of the twitching curtain and anonymous call to the police. It is a state in which ministers denounce activities of which they disapprove and the police are their compliant instruments.
These things have happened in every totalitarian state of modern times. It is an unattractive spectacle. We are fortunate to live in a country with a tradition of ministerial reticence, the rule of law and sensitive policing. We are unfortunate to live at a time of national hysteria, when that tradition has been cast aside and every one of these classic symptoms of a police state can be seen all around us.
Prof. Martin Kulldorff corrects the record to cleanse it of some of the puerile and lazy false accusations made against him, against the Great Barrington Declaration, and more generally against the case against lockdowns – accusations, not incidentally, made by many people who publicly preen as objective devotees of science who open-mindedly follow the facts. A slice:
Berkowitz uses Sweden as an example of a failed pandemic strategy, but despite an older population, the reported COVID-19 mortality of 850/million is less than both Massachusetts (1,800/million) and the United States (1,020/million). Neighboring Finland and Norway locked down less than Sweden and report even lower mortality.
Sweden received international criticism for keeping schools open for all children ages 1-15 throughout the height of the pandemic. This led to zero COVID-19 deaths among the 1.8 million Swedish children in this age group, while teachers had the same risk as the average of other professions.