Many politicians, public-health figures, and media pundits continue to insist that the Covid lockdowns were a success and represent a blueprint for future pandemic responses. Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker recently claimed that “thousands and thousands of more people would have died in Illinois if we had followed the lead of a state like Florida.” Pritzker was echoing California governor Gavin Newsom’s assertion that an 56,000 additional Californians would have died had he followed Florida’s Covid policies. Newsom even claimed that “‘lockdown’ states like California did better economically than ‘looser’ states like Florida.”
The data tell a different story. We recently co-authored a study with colleagues at the Paragon Health Institute showing that states such as Illinois and California that imposed lockdown measures, such as closing business and schools, did not significantly improve health outcomes but had much worse economic and educational outcomes. States such as Florida that rejected lockdowns did much better.
Under our constitution, public-health decisions are generally reserved for the states. This created an opportunity for researchers to compare the different approaches across the states and see how these impacted health, economic, and educational outcomes.