How did a temporary plan to preserve hospital capacity turn into two-to-three months of near-universal house arrest that ended up causing worker furloughs at 256 hospitals, a stoppage of international travel, a 40% job loss among people earning less than $40K per year, devastation of every economic sector, mass confusion and demoralization, a complete ignoring of all fundamental rights and liberties, not to mention the mass confiscation of private property with forced closures of millions of businesses?
Whatever the answer, it’s got to be a bizarre tale.
“Laura, with some guidance from her dad, devised a computer simulation that showed how people – family members, co-workers, students in schools, people in social situations – interact. What she discovered was that school kids come in contact with about 140 people a day, more than any other group. Based on that finding, her program showed that in a hypothetical town of 10,000 people, 5,000 would be infected during a pandemic if no measures were taken, but only 500 would be infected if the schools were closed.”
Laura’s name appears on the foundational paper arguing for lockdowns and forced human separation. That paper is Targeted Social Distancing Designs for Pandemic Influenza (2006). It set out a model for forced separation and applied it with good results backwards in time to 1957. They conclude with a chilling call for what amounts to a totalitarian lockdown, all stated very matter-of-factly.
“Implementation of social distancing strategies is challenging. They likely must be imposed for the duration of the local epidemic and possibly until a strain-specific vaccine is developed and distributed. If compliance with the strategy is high over this period, an epidemic within a community can be averted. However, if neighboring communities do not also use these interventions, infected neighbors will continue to introduce influenza and prolong the local epidemic, albeit at a depressed level more easily accommodated by healthcare systems.”
In other words, it was a high-school science experiment that eventually became law of the land, and through a circuitous route propelled not by science but politics.
[Post-publication note: You can read the 2007 CDC paper here. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/pdf/community_mitigation-sm.pdf It is arguable that this paper did not favor full lockdown. I’ve spoken to Rajeev Venkayya, MD, who regards the 2007 plan as more liberal, and assures me that they never envisioned this level of lockdown: “lockdowns and shelter-in-place were not part of the recommendations.” To my mind, fleshing out the full relationship between this 2007 document and current policy requires a separate article.]
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