Lockdowns Didn’t Stop Covid

A new study finds more virus spread inside homes than work places.

Covid-19 lockdowns shaved 3.5% off U.S. GDP in 2020 even as the federal government spent more than $2.6 trillion in relief measures. Millions of children fell behind in learning and nearly 100,000 businesses closed for good.

Conventional wisdom holds this was worth it because lives were saved by shutting workplaces and schools and telling people to stay home. But a new study by University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan shows the opposite. After the first month of the pandemic, organizations that adopted prevention protocols became safer places than the wider community. Officials who didn’t see that coming forgot that organizations are rational and look for cooperative solutions that improve the welfare of the group, such as reducing the risks of communicable disease.


There is little doubt that infection would spread faster in congregations than in smaller groups if both engaged in similar practices. But since larger groups have an incentive to spend on expensive methods of prevention, larger organizations might be better at prevention than households with fewer people.

This is what happened. “Available data from schools, hospitals, nursing homes, food processing plants, hair stylists, and airlines,” Mr. Mulligan writes in the study, “show employers adopting mitigation protocols in the spring of 2020.” These were “physical barriers,” like masking and air filtering, but also included distancing protocols, pods and screenings. Households were less likely to implement similar precautions.

Source: Lockdowns Didn’t Stop Covid