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California Has the Strictest Lockdown in the US—and the Most Active COVID Cases (by Far)

Jon Miltimore
January 7th, 2021
Foundation for Economic Education
Comments (5)

This article was originally published by Jon Miltimore at The Foundation for Economic Education. 

*EDITOR’S NOTE: Does anyone really need any more evidence that lockdowns do not work?

COVID-19 vaccine may have arrived, but government lockdowns are far from over.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson reinstated a strict lockdown in the United Kingdom, citing a surge in infections and hospitalizations fueled by what officials say is a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus.

“It is clear that we need to do more to bring this new variant under control,” Johnson said. “That means the government is once again instructing you to stay at home.”

Lockdowns remain a reality in many parts of the US as well, although many states—Alaska, Florida, Missouri, South Dakota, and Alabama, among them—have abandoned nearly all restrictions.

MultiState, a state and local government relations company, has a tool that allows readers to track lockdown stringency in US states. The company’s methodology relies on reporting on nearly a dozen factors—Are residents under stay-at-home orders? Are bars and restaurants allowed to operate beyond delivery? What constitutes an “essential” business?—to determine each state’s ranking.

The state’s with the lowest “open score” are the following: California (50), New Mexico (49), Washington (48), Illinois (47), Hawaii (46), Oregon (45), Delaware (44), Vermont (43), New York (42), Michigan (41), and Colorado (40).

Many believed lockdowns might be nearing an end with the announcement of effective vaccines. Unfortunately, that seems far from certain.

Lawmakers continue to rely on lockdowns and various other restrictions in an effort to tame the spread of the virus, but these restrictions come at heavy costs to individuals and economies: job losses, business closures, depression, drug overdoses, and a massive surge in poverty, among them.

This evidence in itself would bring into serious question the ethics of infringing on basic freedoms and fundamental human rights in an effort to slow transmission of a virus. However, lockdowns become even more questionable when one considers evidence that suggests these draconian restrictions seem to have little impact in slowing the spread of the virus.

The aforementioned United Kingdom, for example, is “reimposing” a lockdown, we’re told. But data show the UK’s lockdown stringency has remained remarkably consistent. The toll of the virus, however, has not.

Data in the US tell a similar story.

California, despite having the strictest lockdown in the country, has the most active cases—by far. Sure, California is the most populous state in the US, but the 1.4 million active cases is more than double the next closest state, Florida, which has roughly 609,000 active cases. On a per-capita basis, Californian’s active cases are about 30 percent higher than Florida, which has virtually no restrictions in place. (To put it another way, California currently represents nearly 17 percent of all active cases in the US.)

Similar patterns can be found in other strict lockdown states such as New Mexico, Washington, and Illinois—all of which are witnessing sharp upticks in cases and deaths despite having some of the strictest lockdown policies in the US.

Counterexamples, however, can also be found. OregonVermontDelaware, and others have seen more modest case increases and deaths with the arrival of winter.

The takeaway here isn’t that the politicians in Delaware and Vermont had better pandemic plans than lawmakers in California and New Mexico or are achieving better compliance. Indeed, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently pointed out the virus is surging in LA County despite “great compliance” with public health recommendations.

The takeaway is that central planners can’t manage the coronavirus. Not effectively anyway. They lack the knowledge and the mechanisms of control necessary to control something as complex as a virus. And to be fair, managing a submicroscopic infectious agent that replicates by transmitting itself through living cells is a rather tall task. (Much more complicated than, say, delivering the mail.)

The inability of central planners to effectively manage the virus needs to be acknowledged. One of the duties of the economist is to offer a dose of reality to those who dream they can create anything if they only have enough power.

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design,” Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek famously explained in The Fatal Conceit.

Lockdowns may not be effective, but that doesn’t mean they are going away. Politicians are incentivized to embrace them, even if they don’t work.

Perhaps the best way to end the lockdowns is for Americans to remember that all people are born with “certain unalienable Rights,” and that government exists only to secure these rights.

Once people remember this basic truth, they can find the courage and fortitude to peacefully resist this historic government overreach that has proven so harmful to so many.

Fortunately, many are already actively doing so. From Beverly Hills to Louisville to New York City and beyond, Americans are rediscovering the great tradition of civil disobedience.

“I was not born to be forced,” the great American poet Henry David Thoreau, author of Civil Disobedience, once asserted. “I will breathe after my own fashion.”

It’s a principle we never should have forgotten.


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    Author: Jon Miltimore
    Date: January 7th, 2021

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    1. Bill says:

      One can easily find all day long articles on the internet written by a large number of real medical experts and scientists about this so-called covid “pandemic”, that hold up to strict peer review. These articles, which mostly conflict with official authorities, come from every developed country in the world including the US.
      This pandemic is not only bogus, the methods which TPTB have instituted to deal with this pandemic basically are doing nothing to mitigate it (even if it was real) and is actually harmful, and they know it. That being the case, and seeing that even with officially sponsored measures that are universally in place, the pandemic is continuing, indeed said to be getting worse, one can only reasonably conclude there is no efficacious effects to their mandated measures. The obvious motive therefore is that it is a tool for the State to gain further control over the people.
      -If masks work why the social distancing,
      -if social distancing work why masks,
      -if masks and social distancing work why lockdowns,
      -if lockdowns work why vaccinations,
      -if vaccinations work then why the mandated continued wearing masks, etc. for the vaccinated
      -if vaccinations are safe why legal immunity from lawsuits for the pharma companies for injuries and deaths resulting from vaccinations.
      Furthermore, we have seen statistics explained by experts not connected to gov’t or official institutions that show frankly, the pandemic figures are absurd.
      Yes, unfortunately people do become ill from covid, and sadly some die, and treatment must be found to protect those that are are vulnerable. But 99.84 % of the population will not die from it. Is it truly a pandemic?

    2. dollface says:

      Commiefornia and NY – Could there possibly be any worse places to live?Let’s face it: these states were not exactly a paradise to live in even before the tyrannical lockdowns.The governors have just used the lockdowns to speed up the circling down the drain.

    3. hmm... says:

      Here’s an idea:instead of locking down these states – we should lock up the governors of these states.Things would improve immediately!!😁😂

    4. Andrea.Iravani. says:

      Something extremely strange is going on with Julian Assange not being granted bail as well as with alternative media that claimed to support Assange criticizing them for not allowing Assange to transition to house arrest with an ankle bracelet. Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail and has been in prison for over 19 months, so he should be freed without any bail at all, without house arrest, and without an ankle bracelet! Both Global Research and Unz Review journalists have been asking for Assange to be under house arrest with ankle bracelet and bail. Why? The only reason that Assange was detained longer than 50 weeks was because of the U.S. extradition request which was denied. Reeks! With advocates like that, who needs the government?! When authoritarians pretend that they are not authoritarians, that is what it looks like! What are they afraid of? What is the objective? To isolate the winner, obviously! Guilty of being superior to them! 

      Andrea Iravani

    5. Darth Skippy says:

      The pearls-clutching attitude is hilarious, in this blue state, where the cleanest, polite-ist, most affluent of whites can get in an elevator, with “the help,” and is presumed to be the violent offender.

      I never treated you any worse than a golf caddy or box boy, in public.

      “Perhaps the best way to end the lockdowns is for Americans to remember that all people are born with ‘certain unalienable Rights,’ and that government exists only to secure these rights.”
      “Joker states via narration that despite being ‘in a world of shit’, he is glad to be alive and is no longer afraid.”

      But, why is he unequally-yoked to “Gomer Pyle”, under a premise of collective punishment.

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