University researchers find ‘no additional decline’ in coronavirus infection rate from lockdowns

University researchers find ‘no additional decline’ in coronavirus infection rate from lockdown

April 7, 2020

Yet try to play down that finding

One of the most valuable lessons I learned in the college classroom was not to shy away from the conclusions to which your evidence leads.

I had written a paper analyzing a state law restricting teen driving, put on the books in the past year. Its sponsors sold it as a way to save lives, yet they put no mechanism in the legislation to actually track its effectiveness (say, officers noting violations of the law when they write citations).

When I asked for evidence that the law had delivered on its promise, they insisted that it did. They just had no way to demonstrate it. And because I felt bad questioning their good intentions, I wrote in the paper that the law probably worked.

My professor praised the analysis – and trashed my conclusion. It didn’t follow from the evidence.

I recalled this when I read an intriguing Twitter thread about a forthcoming research paper on COVID-19 and social distancing by scholars at University College London, University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.

Written by Harvard psychiatry professor Alexander Tsai, it says the research team wanted to “assess the extent to which social distancing has restrained the growth” of the epidemic.

“Social distancing” has a very specific meaning here, covering “executive orders, state of emergency declarations, restrictions on travel, school closures, etc.”

They omitted measures that were “non-binding” and those issued by a lower jurisdiction, such as a county, and then mapped the “daily case growth rate” against the “first statewide distancing measures.”

Interestingly, the growth rate was “relatively constant” before implementation of these measures, and after 14 days, the “doubling time” now took five days, up from 3.3 days.

The team got very different results when it looked at the effect of “lockdowns,” by which it means “restrictions on internal movement” issued in 30 states, the median of which was implemented 10 days after the first social distancing measures.

Fourteen tweets into the 20-tweet thread, here’s the bombshell:

There was no additional decline after lockdowns were implemented. The whole rationale for lockdowns is to #StopTheSpread better than through social distancing.

Let that sink it, but not for too long, because Tsai is afraid you’ll develop a conclusion based on his evidence.

Perish the thought that people might look at this elite research team’s findings and ask their elected leaders to justify life-ruining, economy-destroying, health-worsening lockdowns with actual evidence that they #SlowTheSpread by themselves, not just piggybacking on less draconian measures.

Tsai may worry that this finding will be trumpeted by people with motivations he dislikes, who want to end the ruin that their governments have visited on their lives, pointlessly as it turns out. To be in good standing with the public health establishment is to favor draconian restrictions on daily life, or so we’ve learned.

But he can’t just bury the single most newsworthy finding of the research, so he tries to nullify its importance: “It is very difficult to identify the independent effect of lockdowns.” Don’t make the assumption that “lockdowns don’t work” by looking at research that … found no evidence they worked in this case.

It’s like me trying to conclude that a law with no mechanism to measure its effectiveness was probably effective. I hope other researchers are less worried than Tsai about the conclusions that follow from their evidence.

April 10, 2020. Tags: , , , , , , , . Health care. Leave a comment.

Harvard faculty members who supported the passage of Obamacare are now complaining that they have to pay for it

This is hilarious!

January 5, 2015

For years, Harvard’s experts on health economics and policy have advised presidents and Congress on how to provide health benefits to the nation at a reasonable cost. But those remedies will now be applied to the Harvard faculty, and the professors are in an uproar.

Members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the heart of the 378-year-old university, voted overwhelmingly in November to oppose changes that would require them and thousands of other Harvard employees to pay more for health care. The university says the increases are in part a result of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which many Harvard professors championed.

The faculty vote came too late to stop the cost increases from taking effect this month, and the anger on campus remains focused on questions that are agitating many workplaces: How should the burden of health costs be shared by employers and employees? If employees have to bear more of the cost, will they skimp on medically necessary care, curtail the use of less valuable services, or both?

In Harvard’s health care enrollment guide for 2015, the university said it “must respond to the national trend of rising health care costs, including some driven by health care reform,” in the form of the Affordable Care Act. The guide said that Harvard faced “added costs” because of provisions in the health care law that extend coverage for children up to age 26, offer free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies and, starting in 2018, add a tax on high-cost insurance, known as the Cadillac tax.

Richard F. Thomas, a Harvard professor of classics and one of the world’s leading authorities on Virgil, called the changes “deplorable, deeply regressive, a sign of the corporatization of the university.”

Mary D. Lewis, a professor who specializes in the history of modern France and has led opposition to the benefit changes, said they were tantamount to a pay cut. “Moreover,” she said, “this pay cut will be timed to come at precisely the moment when you are sick, stressed or facing the challenges of being a new parent.”

Jerry R. Green, a professor of economics and a former provost who has been on the Harvard faculty for more than four decades, said the new out-of-pocket costs could lead people to defer medical care or diagnostic tests, causing more serious illnesses and costly complications in the future.

“It’s equivalent to taxing the sick,” Professor Green said. “I don’t think there’s any government in the world that would tax the sick.”

“It seems that Harvard is trying to save money by shifting costs to sick people,” said Mary C. Waters, a professor of sociology. “I don’t understand why a university with Harvard’s incredible resources would do this. What is the crisis?”

January 6, 2015. Tags: , , , . Health care, Politics. 4 comments.

Obamacare = Calvinball

“Calvinball” is a game that Bill Watterson invented for his comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.” In Calvinball, the rules are constantly changing.

Obamacare is constantly changing too. Obama has made a huge number of Changes to Obamacare since he signed it in March 2010.

December 21, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Barack Obama, Health care, Politics. 4 comments.