Sidelining vs. reverence

When you're not sure what science is exactly, it's hard to know whether you're sidelining or revering it.
[I]n the U.S., all 50 states are autonomous on most matters. This is what former President Trump soon realized when the virus started spreading. Each state had different approaches. Trump claimed power over them that was absolute, but Georgia and Florida approached the virus with a very light touch, while New York, California and New Jersey were very heavy-handed. Translated for those with limited knowledge of the Constitution, Trump’s embrace or dismissal of so-called “science” was in many ways immaterial.
So while the Times reporters claim that “Science was sidelined at every level of government” on the way to “Failure at Every Level,” the reality is that states were free to keep “science” off the sideline to their heart’s content. New York, California and New Jersey presumably did? How did it work?


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Mississippi and the Dakotas also had a light hand and had brutal results. Vermont, Maine, and Washington had very heavy hands and it worked.

My non-expert opinion is that public transportation is such an overwhelming spreader that you are going to have terrible results even if you close everything else down. I don't know how you could have shut down all public transportation in the NYC metro area without creating an insurrection, but that may have been the only thing that would have seriously reduced number of deaths.

It's hard to look at state and metro results and mentally remove what you think might be the transportation usage, including cabs and buses, but you can get some idea. Yet even then, it is difficult to factor because the places with the most extensive subway, bus, elevator, etc usage are also the ones with the greatest population density, which is something of a separate factor.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I should have mentioned that yes, Trump had little to do with the national results. Not zero, but less than commonly attributed by those who default to blaming him for everything.

Dad29 said...

The Left loves them some dictatorship; since Trump was not a dictator they hated him.

Sanity about this super-flu is likely NEVER to be.

E Hines said...

Well, science was sidelined at the Federal level. Not by Trump, but by Fauci, who openly admitted that he lied to us (and presumably to Trump) about two key factors in the Wuhan Virus situation--for our own good.

And this is the man our new Progressive-Democrat President wants to keep in place. So "science" can become whatever Dr Jill and the VP (a new rock band?) find convenient to the moment.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

Public health isn't really science anyway, in part because you can't repeat experiments, you can't hold things to only one variable, and there are no control groups. It's empirical, which is good, but that's not quite the same thing.

That makes it hard to say things like, to quote AVI above, "Mississippi and the Dakotas also had a light hand and had brutal results. Vermont, Maine, and Washington had very heavy hands and it worked." The first sentence is verifiable; the second sentence implies that "it worked," but we don't really know if "it" had any effect; maybe the results would have been the same either way. We can't go back and repeat the test. Maybe "they worked," or maybe those areas had lower risks for a complex set of reasons we don't fully understand.

Lockdowns seemed like they would work. It's a little strange that several studies now suggest that they don't seem to have demonstrable effects on the virus (though clear ones on economics and social well-being). But those studies aren't really science either; they're just studies of a set of empirical facts that don't become more replicable or testable by being combined.

All things considered, if we can't show that a heavy-handed policy is very effective, I'd as soon err on the side of freedom. I was willing to take a gamble on lockdowns the first time around because it sounded plausible, but empirically there is little reason to continue to favor them as an approach.

David Foster said...

Public transportation seems like almost certainly a major spreader. But NYC made it worse by reducing the length of the subway trains, thereby packing people more tightly.

Texan99 said...

I remain unconvinced that we know what strategies did and didn't make the outbreak better or worse. There were always going to be local variations, to judge from every other pandemic that's ever occurred.

What we absolutely can make a judgment on is how much we devastated local economies. If there were a clear pattern of worse disease where the economy was less devastated, we'd have hard questions to answer about whether it was worth it. But we don't have that pattern. For all I can tell, the two are fairly unrelated, which means to me that we might as well not devastate local economies in the vain hope that it will translate into lives saved from COVID.

My guess is that we'd have done a lot better not to suppress experimental treatments, especially for nakedly political reasons, but I can't prove that, either.