I’m not going to tell you what’s happening. I’m going to show you.
So, “re-opening” is a bit of a political football these days. Vox Media is in the process of losing their minds on this one, because all their self-serving narratives regarding risk-adversity and political inclinations tell them that conservatives are that way because they are risk-adverse, yet it’s the conservative states that are kicking the doors to reopen.
Why are liberals more afraid of the coronavirus than conservatives?
In recent years, there's been an explosion of academic work on the psychological foundations of our politics. The basic…
It’s humorous, to say the least, to watch Vox quote “social science studies” (remember, social science isn’t really a science, not in the way math and physics are) reiterating the above, and then try to come up with plausible explanations which don’t force them to re-evaluate their preconceptions.
For my part, it’s possible, I suppose, that the Trump Effect is leading conservatives to want to re-open and liberals to hunker down, directly opposing their own instincts. But evidence for that theory is a little scanty. First, the red-state governors started talking about re-opening while Trump was vacillating on the topic; and the blue-state governors who are most religiously holding to their lockdowns are also the ones whose states have been most hammered by the pandemic. Thus, it seems entirely logical for the economically-minded Republican governors to want to reboot their economies, just as it seems entirely logical for the Whitmers and Cuomos to resist doing so as long as possible, considering the hell they’ve just dealt with.
Then, there’s current and historical observation. It is difficult to imagine, for example, that the pioneers of the mid to late 1800’s, who took the risks of traveling west into vast lands with no towns or any other sort of infrastructure, braving hostile native Americans and (if further south) even more hostile Mexicans intent on pushing their claims northward, casting a vote for collectivist political policies. And it’s easily observed that entrepreneurs, who take the risk of starting businesses, lean to the right politically; even the technology entrepreneurs like Musk, Bezos, Gates, and Zuckerberg, when commenting on Things Political, are clearly more centrist than they are left, which is somewhat amazing considering how left-leaning their employee base (who did *not* take any economic risks themselves, choosing instead to take a job with a going concern) tends to be.
Vox needs to add a fourth possibility to the list in their article: That the social scientists they quote were just plain wrong, and built their psychosociological profiles of conservatives without accounting for their own biases.
But enough of that side-show entertainment. What about Texas? How’s that re-opening going down there, anywayhoo? After all, the chattering class is all about how Texas is now suffering dreadfully from their (well, ours, since I’m a Texan) misguided decision to re-open the state. Texas has offended them for a couple of months now, after all, being the large state with the lowest number of cases per capita and the lowest number of deaths.
Gov. Abbott announced a phased re-opening of the state starting on May 1. To the untrained eye, that chart LOOKS like case loads started to rise on or about that date. Hence, the headlines from the chattering classes.
But wait! A closer look at the chart shows that the rise in cases started before May 1, on April 26; and if you understand viral spread for COVID 19, you wouldn’t expect a rise in case load from a May 1 reopening prior to May 5 or 6 at the earliest. So, cases in Texas had been rising for ten days for reasons unrelated to the re-open.
What would those reasons be, one wonders?
As you can easily see, the increase in the Texas cases roughly tracks the ramp-up in the Texas testing regiment. Somebody with more time on their hands than I could probably dig into the daily numbers and determine to what extent the increase in Texas cases is due to the increase in testing of individuals who are asymptomatic and/or not in a high risk group, and which are due to “re-opening”. My eyeball says it’s about 80/20 in favor of increased testing, but I could be wrong.
But it’s a safe bet that the chattering classes haven’t done this math, a safer bet that they have no idea HOW to do the math, and therefore there is no way to connect the dots between the CASES chart and Texas’ phased re-opening.
How about deaths?
Mortality generally tracks cases with about a 10–14 day interval. So, the increase in cases which started on 4/26 is being reflected in the mortality count rise from May 12 to May 18. Again, this increase appears to be due to an increase in cases that occurred PRIOR to re-opening.
What happens next? Nobody with any sense believes that re-opening comes without a price. The question is if that price is worth it, which is determined by offsetting the risk of extended recession (and the human agony and death that causes) AND the increase in non COVID deaths directly caused by the lockdown (suicides, delays in cancer screenings, etc.)
This is not a question that epidemiologists like Dr. Fauci can answer, by the way. This question moves into the realm of Public Health, which is that red-headed stepchild of medicine which focuses on the impact of medical decisions on the public. Public health officials are well accustomed to making econostatistical decisions involving “triage”, knowing that a particular decision could have a cost in lives but serve the greater good to society.
Let’s all enjoy our lives now, shall we?