HomeHealth Care NewsIt Was Safer to Go to Work than Stay Home, Pandemic Analysis...

It Was Safer to Go to Work than Stay Home, Pandemic Analysis Finds

An analysis by a University of Chicago economist finds that except during the early stages of the pandemic, people would have been safer to go to their workplace or out in public than to stay home.

The analysis, a working paper published in April by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that households weren’t exactly safety-bubbles of protection for a variety of reasons. “Micro evidence contradicts the public-health ideal in which households would be places of solitary confinement and zero transmission,” writes author, Casey Mulligan. “Instead the evidence suggests that ‘households show the highest transmission rates’ and that ‘households are high-risk settings for the transmission of COVID-19.’”

Turning Epidemiology on Its Head

Early on in the pandemic, when COVID-19 was considered a mysterious menace, epidemiologists and public health agencies presumed the safest guidance was to tell the public to avoid large crowds and stay home. Mulligan tested this presumption using data from schools, hospitals, any place where mitigation control was in effect.

The protocols had their intended effect:  infection rates of COVID-19 in these settings dropped precipitously. The measures, however, chased crowds of people to new settings, namely their homes, where rates of infection did creep up. “When this occurs, the sign of the disease externality from participating in large organizations changes from negative to positive, even while individuals continue to have an incentive to avoid large organizations,” writes Mulligan. “Rational cooperative prevention sometimes results in infectious-disease patterns that are opposite of predictions from classical epidemiology.”

Futility of Chasing a Virus

Lockdown measures got off to a slow start but soon spread across the nation and lasted until the end of 2020. Mulligan said it’s important to look at how the measures impacted behavior from an economic point of view.

“Even though an infectious disease would spread more rapidly in congregations of people who prevent the same way they do in households, the groups may be enough more productive at prevention that the disease spreads more rapidly at home where there are fewer people,” writes Mulligan.

The report cites several examples of how this played out. A well-known study of COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York found that 66 percent of patients became infected while at home.  Using sophisticated economic formulas, Mulligan reviews outbreaks in a variety of settings, such as FEDEX pilots, to hair salons and individual households. He then reviewed the various prevention measures large organizations took to protect people, such as universal masking, air filtering, social distancing, and screening people for illness.

Measures impact behavior. Mulligan cites his own University of Chicago which took prevention measures and had relatively low infection rates, but still, students chose to stay home, “even while public health would be enhanced by spending more time in groups with effective prevention controls.”

Internet info:

Casey B. Mulligan, “The Backward Art of Slowing the Spread? Congregation Efficiencies During Covid-19,” National Bureau of Economic Research, April 2021:  https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w28737/w28737.pdf

AnneMarie Schieber
AnneMarie Schieber is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News, Heartland's monthly newspaper for health care reform.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -spot_img

Most Popular

- Advertisement -spot_img
- Advertisement -spot_img

Recent Comments

MaryJean38@Comcast.net on CDC Ignores Scientific Studies on Masks
Many Climate Crisis Claims Are Based on Manipulated Science on How to End Biden’s Fake Climate Apocalypse
Scottar Brooke on Free Speech? Forget It.
Randy M Verret on The Gaslight Election
S. T. Karnick on The Gaslight Election
Randy M Verret on The Gaslight Election
S. T. Karnick on The Gaslight Election
Randy M Verret on The Gaslight Election
S. T. Karnick on The Gaslight Election
Randy Verret on The Gaslight Election
Randy Verret on The Gaslight Election
Breonna Taylor Settlement: What it means for No-knock Warrants – Gun News on U.S. Senator Attacked by Mob
Breonna Taylor Settlement: What it means for No-knock Warrants ~ N6AQ.com on U.S. Senator Attacked by Mob