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Monkeypox Outbreak Leveling Off, No Thanks to Government

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Director at Public Health and American Well-Being Initiative
Joel M. Zinberg, M.D., J.D. is the Director of the Public Health and American Well-Being Initiative at Paragon Health Institute, and a senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. A native New Yorker, he recently completed two years as General Counsel and Senior Economist at the Council of Economic Advisers in the Executive Office of the President.

Something that apparently surprised government bureaucrats and left-wing commentators but is, in fact, completely predictable is happening: The growth in new monkeypox cases is leveling off and may be starting to decline, and the government had little to do with it. In New York City — the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak — the seven-day average of new cases actually peaked at the end of July and has been declining since. Similarly, new cases in California — the other most common site of U.S. illness — appear to have peaked in early August and subsequently declined.

Contrary to what some observers think, there is nothing perplexing about these developments. Economists have long known that people voluntarily change their behavior to avoid the risks and costs of infectious diseases. These changes in individual behaviors usually precede any government action and have a greater impact.

During the Covid pandemic, studies of cellphone-mobility data showed that people started to reduce their time outside the home and that businesses had declines in customer traffic before the government-imposed lockdowns. Canadian economist Douglas Allen reviewed nearly 20 studies that distinguished between voluntary and mandated lockdown effects.

The full article can be found in National Review.

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