COVID-19 policy measures had no significant impact on reducing deaths from the virus, researchers report.
A study titled “Assessing COVID-19 pandemic policies and behaviours and their economic and educational trade-offs across US states from Jan 1, 2020, to July 31, 2022: an observational analysis,” was published in The Lancet on March 23.
The authors looked at the impact of a variety of factors on infection and death rates. The researchers considered mask and vaccine mandates for schools and state employees, stay-at-home orders, gathering restrictions, and the closure of gyms, pools, bars, restaurants, schools, colleges, and universities.
“Mandate propensity (a summary measure that captures a state’s use of physical distancing and mask mandates) was associated with a statistically significant and meaningfully large reduction in the cumulative infection rate, but not the cumulative death rate,” write the authors.
Missing the Point
The study seems to bury its most significant finding, says Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D., a senior research fellow in the Center for Health and Welfare Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
“Perhaps the most intriguing finding in the latest Lancet study is that a state’s propensity to mandate physical distancing and masks was associated with a reduction in ‘the cumulative infection rate’ but not ‘the cumulative death rate,’” said Moffit. “That finding is broadly consistent with previous academic research.”
Moffit notes a report making just that point was released by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics in January 2022.
“Undertaking a comprehensive literature review, an international research team found that government mandates, including lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders, had little or no effect on COVID-19 mortality,” said Moffit.
Focus on Pandemic Politics
The Lancet study, supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, focused largely on infection rates, and COVID deaths in general and their connection to socio-economic factors like education, poverty, and politics.
“The USA struggled in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but not all states struggled equally,” state the authors.
Regarding politics and COVID-19 death rates, the researchers note a “larger proportion of the population who voted for the 2020 Republican presidential candidate was significantly associated with a higher cumulative death rate.”
Death Rates Reflect State Demographics
Differences in state COVID-19 death rates can be explained by demographics, says Moffitt.
“While the study found states that voted Republican in the 2020 election had, on average, higher mortality, it is worth noting that red states are far more rural, and rural America is older.”
“Unfortunately, America’s response to the pandemic has been poisoned by overt politicization,” said Moffett. “Unfortunately, the Lancet study is unlikely to provide an antidote.”
AnneMarie Schieber (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the managing editor of Health Care News.