Published June 9, 2020
From the beginning of the pandemic, many conservatives have argued that the lockdowns were an overreaction to the novel coronavirus and that they are causing unnecessary economic pain. Recent studies, however, show that this argument is wrong.
Lockdowns and other measures to inhibit the spread of covid-19 likely saved hundreds of thousands of lives in the United States alone. We know this because of the way the virus spreads exponentially. Without lockdowns and other measures, every infected person would come into contact with a large number of uninfected people every day. A certain percentage of those people would contract the disease and would then further spread the disease to other uninfected people. Left unchecked, diseases such as covid-19 become like a raging wildfire, burning everything in their path.
That’s what the initial mantra of coronavirus control — “flatten the curve” — was meant to convey. When the spread of the disease is displayed as a graph, one observes a rapid climb with a slight curve. The slower the climb, the flatter the curve. Flattening the curve meant the disease spread more slowly, ensuring that hospitals and other health-care facilities could treat the patients who arrived. Graphs of the actual spread of the disease before and after the lockdowns show this happened.
Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.