Business office or store shop is closed/bankrupt business due to the effect of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Unidentified person wearing mask hanging closed sign in background on front door.

‘Flattening the curve’ as bait and switch

Karl Dierenbach writes for the Federalist about abuse of the concept of “flattening the curve.”

At one point, the theory of “flattening the curve” was ubiquitous. The basic concept was that lockdowns could slow the spread of coronavirus, and this was of great importance since, as we were told at the time, “We can’t stop this virus.” The narrative went that if the virus were to spread unchecked, hospitals would be overwhelmed and both people with coronavirus and those needing medical attention for other ailments would die from the lack of access to care.

It all made sense. To a certain extent, it still does. …

… Flattening the curve made two assumptions. First, it assumed that a certain amount of deaths and infections were inevitable and the best we could do was delay the process. No one promoting flattening the curve talked of stopping the disease. …

… Second, flattening the curve was always shown with the same level of flattening: just enough to not overwhelm the health-care system. This was a tacit admission that flattening the curve would be painful and that it would not be beneficial to flatten the curve beyond the level needed to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system.

Flattening the curve was the bait. Next came the switch.

It didn’t take long for the “flattening the curve” storyline to be abandoned. …

… To this day, there are states that locked down during the initial flurry of panic and remain locked down despite the lack of any true threat to hospital capacity. At its peak, Colorado had 888 coronavirus patients in hospitals. As of June 24, that number is 134 and has dropped near-continuously since April 23, yet the governor is removing restrictions slowly and schools are contemplating remote learning for the fall.

The narrative of flattening the curve was almost silently replaced with “lockdowns save lives.” Many early shutdowns resulted in over-suppression, which meant any subsequent opening would be accompanied by an increase in cases and hospitalizations.

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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