Study: No real evidence lockdown policies cut COVID-19 cases or deaths

Researchers from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago found shelter-in-place (SIP) did little to curb the virus

A new study conducted by a group of researchers at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy has found that shelter-in-place (SIP) did little to curb the COVID-19 virus.

The study, published on the website of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), looked at the effects of shelter-in-place (SIP) orders during the first wave of COVID-19.

“We estimate the effects of shelter-in-place (SIP) orders during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We do not find detectable effects of these policies on disease spread or deaths,” the study’s abstract reads.

The researchers measured mobility rates of the populace using cell phone data and found that SIP’s appeared to have an almost negligible impact on mobility. The findings showed “small but measurable effects on mobility that dissipate over time” and “small, delayed effects on unemployment.”

The report, however, contends that SIP’s and social distancing weren’t totally worthless and that it is possible people changed their habits.

“To be clear, our findings do not mean that sheltering in place and social distancing behaviors had no effect on the disease,” wrote the researchers. “Indeed, the health benefits of orders were likely limited because many people were already social distancing before the introduction of SIP orders.”

The study implies that politics may have played some role, noting that “ Our results suggest that county- and state-level policies did not have large effects on behavior and health.”

One figure included in the statistics and graphics of the study juxtaposes all of the states and their mobility levels over time. North Carolina’s mobility was not significantly different from other states.

Tomorrow, March 30, is the one-year anniversary of the engagement of North Carolina’s lockdown. Gov. Roy Cooper issued executive order 121 on March 27. Only specific essential travel was allowed and only certain types of businesses were permitted to operate.

Order 121 took effect on March 30 and originally lasted for thirty days. The lockdown order would be renewed several times. Executive order 138 issued on Apr. 23 extended the lockdown until May 8. The statewide lockdown would not be lifted until May 22 under executive order 141.

North Carolina became subject to a statewide mask mandate on June 24, 2020, under executive order 147. Nine months later the state is still under a mandatory mask requirement.

On Nov. 23, Cooper made the mask mandate even more stringent through executive order 180 by requiring all citizens over the age of 2 to wear a mask in public spaces regardless of indoor or outdoor location. Outdoor mask usage was made mandatory when six-foot social distancing was not possible.

To date, there has been no proof offered by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services or the Cooper administration that the mask mandate worked/is working to reduce cases or deaths. In fact, the weekly case data after the mask mandate was implemented was charted through mid-October with very mixed results. COVID-19 cases in NC were not dropping but, in fact, saw sharp upticks with small drops in between. North Carolina has seen its highest number of cases and death rates while under the governor’s continued mask mandate.