Our Approach to Setting COVID-19 Policy is Flawed

Many political leaders frame their COVID-19 policies as a choice between lives and "business." Science and basic planning principles say this is a false choice. The policy arguments are meant to quell opposition by making economic considerations appear selfish and heartless. This is lazy thinking.


There is considerable research on the impact on life expectancy of economic setbacks. As an example, a paper published in May, available at The National Institutes of Health's website, compares the impact of Quality of Life Years (QALY) of "limited reopening" relative to "shelter in place" strategies.


Among other things it concluded that . . .

"the  economic harms associated with shelter-in-place [relative to limited  reopening] exceed the value of QALY benefits unless one additional month  of shelter-in-place restrictions would prevent more than 154,586  deaths."

Meaning unless a lock down prevents over 150,000 deaths a month, it sets us back more than it helps.


This research isn't the only word. QALY is not the only method to compare policies. Scientific findings are subject to debate. The problem here is the quantification of policy trade-offs has been glaringly absent from the national debate. Why are we ignoring established science?


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