“Do Covid Precautions Work?” asks New York Times reporter David Leonhardt. “Yes,” he concludes, “but they haven’t made a big difference.”
It’s amazing to see a journalist finally confronting all of the data we’ve discussed for over a year now.
Did Omicron spread less in the parts of the U.S. where social distancing and masking were more common?
The answer is surprisingly unclear.
It is honestly hard to write this without overmuch laughter.
Nationwide, the number of official Covid cases has recently been somewhat higher in heavily Democratic areas than Republican areas, according to The Times’s data. …
No single statistic offers a definitive answer. When I look at all the evidence, I emerge thinking that liberal areas probably had slightly lower Omicron infection rates than conservative areas. But it is difficult to be sure …
Leonhardt then commits a journalism. Rather than compare disease statistics across regions with different containment policies, he takes “Trump vote share” as a proxy for who is being more cautious. To the surprise of nobody outside the New York Times, he finds that greater Trump vote share does not correlate with higher positive test rates.
The lack of a clear pattern is itself striking. Remember, not only have Democratic voters been avoiding restaurants and wearing masks; they are also much more likely to be vaccinated and boosted (and vaccines substantially reduce the chances of infection). Combined, these factors seem as if they should have caused large differences in case rates.
Womp womp. The last two years have been nothing but the triumph of theory over evidence. I can no longer count, all the Twitter exchanges I’ve had, with people who are sure that lockdowns must work because reasons, and who can’t see that they’re nevertheless plainly not working.