COVID-19 superimposed onto cut outs of yellow paper over a pile of money

UNC economist Zelder offers six reasons to end N.C. lockdown

Hours before Gov. Roy Cooper announced plans to move North Carolina into Phase 2 of his COVID-19 reopening plan, UNC-Chapel Hill economist Martin Zelder released a list of “Six Facts Supporting the End of North Carolina’s Lockdown.” You’ll find the full document here.

Among the most interesting pieces of information is Zelder’s computation of mortality risks for the vast majority of North Carolinians who live outside nursing homes and prisons.

Zelder’s work helped inform a CarolinaJournal.com Daily Journal earlier this week. The column focused on the importance of considering trade-offs when making public policy decisions.

Assistant Professor Martin Zelder explains why Cooper’s phased reopening plan for the state’s economy “is profoundly disappointing to people like me — evidence-based social scientists who care about the collective well-being of our society.”

Announced May 5, Cooper’s plan spells out three stages for reopening. The first “continues the lockdown and entails no real change,” in Zelder’s estimation. Even as the state proceeds to later stages, North Carolinians would face government-mandated economic restrictions at least through the end of June and potentially through July 28.

Labeling the plan “extraordinarily cautious,” Zelder contends that Cooper has ignored current evidence. The professor points to “extensive statistical analyses” supporting his argument. In short, the continued lockdown offers “limited social benefit and high social cost.” …

… While the first four pieces of Zelder’s analysis emphasized health, the fifth focused on the economy. The professor labels the cost of each lockdown day “enormous.” Using data from a Moody’s Analytics study, he estimates a daily loss of $375 million from North Carolina’s gross domestic product. “And this doesn’t capture costs, as a result of social distancing, from multitudes of lost but valuable human interactions, reflected to some degree in the incidence of mental-health problems,” Zelder adds.

Follow Carolina Journal Online’s continuing coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic here.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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