by UnHerd
Wednesday, 13
May 2020

The case for lockdowns

Dr Natalie Dean talks to Freddie Sayers
by UnHerd

Dr Natalie Dean, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at University of Florida, has been one of the most prominent voices in the US media arguing in favour of continued lockdowns. She co-authored a piece in The New York Times which argued that a ‘herd immunity’ strategy would cost millions of lives. Freddie Sayers challenges her on how she can be so sure…

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  • Lost in these discussions are the places that have succeeded in flattening the curve without much of a lock-down. I live in British Columbia, Canada and our first reported case was in late January. We closed schools and large gatherings in March, but shops, transit, take-out, beaches, parks, etc. all remained open. Indoors we have been zealous social distancers, but outdoors you wouldn’t notice much difference. We did close the border to non-essential travel. Small shops are asking customers to wear makes and have capacity limits. They cancelled elective surgeries to free up hospital beds, but are resuming those next week. Compared to what other countries appear to be going through it is very relaxed. We have had 132 deaths in a population of over 5 million, granted we have a large land mass, but the population density in Vancouver is similar to most European cites. Like other places the deaths are concentrated in nursing homes with a median age of death of 87. It is very possible that we just got lucky. We are not South Korea or Taiwan in terms of our testing and contract tracing, but are seeing similar results. While severe lock-downs might be necessary in some places, I believe our experience demonstrates they may not be necessary everywhere.

  • A few comments regarding the claims about Sweden:

    1) The delay in the ICU admission data is, for most cases, at most a couple of days, and there has been a steady downgoing trend for a month now. For data, see… It would be interesting to know how long Dr. Dean thinks that a lockdown has to last in order to ensure that the “hidden momentum” (as I interpret her answer) is gone. For the number of cases, there isn’t much lag at all, maximum of 2-3 days as well, and a fraction of the new cases are because of extended testing of health care workers. The number of cases tested under the old testing criterion is going down as well. For the death toll, most of the cases are reported within ten days, but looking at the cases for more than ten days back shows a clear decay in daily deaths as well.

    2) While it is true that the death toll in Sweden is higher than its neighbors, the choice of not having a lockdown may not be the explanation for that. The following report, drawing conclusions from data instead of models with questionable parameter choices, illustrates that:

    3) The state of Georgia has approximately the same population as Sweden. When I looked at the data a couple of days ago, Sweden’s death toll was 3200, while for Georgia, it was 1500. But when only considering people under 70, 500 have passed away in Georgia compared to 400 in Sweden. While there could be several explanations for this, I think it is still an interesting observation since lockdown mostly affects people at working age, losing their income and students, not getting a proper education.

  • All fell apart when asked about Sweden. She completely denied the truth of what has happened and put it down to some kind of randomness. I was interested till then. Any exposure to reality realised a negative response.

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