We have heard every argument from every side over every pandemic-related policy for what seems like forever. But having now passed the two-year mark since the onset of the most deadly virus in our lifetime, and the wildly varying responses to it across the nation, we are in a position to look back upon that awful time and draw substantive conclusions about which approaches to COVID-19 were actually effective — and, just as importantly, which were not. It is only through such honest and sweeping examination that we can be without excuse in pursuing the proper course of action the next time a pandemic or similar threat to public health sweeps the land.
But before we consider the results of the most exhaustive comparative study to date, the COVID report card just released by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), it is important to understand the full scope of the authors’ research. This study examined the responses of all 50 states and DC and took into account not only COVID mortality but also impact of pandemic-related policies on the states’ economies and education systems (measured by schooldays lost).
It turned out that the most Republican state in the nation, Utah, finished at the top of the heap. Purple Pennsylvania finished at the bottom. But more revealing were the top ten and bottom ten states. Of the top ten finishers in the study — Utah, Nebraska, Vermont, Montana, South Dakota, Florida, New Hampshire, Maine, Arkansas, and Idaho — seven were bright red, and two of the remaining three were purple.
But even more revealing were the bottom ten — New Jersey, DC, New York, New Mexico, California, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. The states that failed in their heavy-handed response to the pandemic consisted of not a single red one but eight bright blue and two purple.
The broad sweep of this survey is particularly helpful in distinguishing the specific success of states in various areas. For example, Florida, governed by the most controversial conservative in the country not named Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, finished in the middle of the pack in COVID mortality, and virtually even with the largest state governed by a leftist, Gavin Newsom’s California (28th vs. 27th). But the Sunshine State finished 13th in education, while California finished dead last, and also ranked third in economy, while California was 40th.
“The correlation between health and economy scores is essentially zero,” the authors told The Wall Street Journal, “which suggests that states that withdrew the most from economic activity did not significantly improve health by doing so.”
This is yet another textbook example of not only the left’s penchant for ever more power but also its toxic one-step thinking. Much like its argument that the answer to gun violence is to seize as many guns as possible, or that the appropriate response to a budget shortfall is to reflexively raise taxes, the leftists decided that, since people were getting sick, they would simply confine people to their homes and all but shut down their states. They gave little or no thought, apparently, to the cascading consequences, including everything from massive temporary unemployment to dangerously declining mental health. This definitive, data-centered study proved that, contrary to the unflinching reflexes of leftists, headed, of course, by the illustrious Anthony Fauci, we now have the data — plenty of it — to prove that massive restrictions and lockdowns did not work, and freedom did.