Jenkins, Jr.: The Lockdowns Were the Black Swan, not the Wuhan Virus

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. in the Wall Street Journal:

Columbia University once found that only 20% of flu sufferers and 5% of cold sufferers bothered to see a doctor. This is why the Wuhan virus was destined to go world-wide even if China had been upfront or an American president had been clairvoyant. Every bit of data since has confirmed it. Infectious respiratory diseases are a fact of nature. Beijing was finally driven to action by the same consideration that drove other countries to action—when the number of infected people and the duration of their cases overwhelmed a local hospital system.

This is the proximate crisis that called for a public response around the world. Novel pandemic diseases are not a black swan. Our lockdown response was a black swan.

We started off sensibly. “This is not something [American families] generally need to worry about,” said CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier in mid-January. “It’s a very, very low risk to the United States,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci a week later.

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York, urged residents to go about their business normally as recently as March 11.

As cold-blooded as it seems, these were the right statements at the time. Under “flatten the curve,” changes in public behavior aren’t needed until they are needed. Roll that around in your mind a bit. The better we do at equipping local hospitals, the less we need to bankrupt local businesses and their workers to slow the virus as it runs its course through society. That was the idea we started with.



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