Why nobody will ever agree on whether COVID lockdowns were worth it

James D. Long, University of Washington; Mark A. Smith, University of Washington, and Victor Menaldo, University of Washington

As an increasingly vaccinated world emerges from lockdowns, lots of people are talking about whether the fight against the pandemic was too strong or too weak. Some people argue restrictions did not go far enough; others maintain the attempted cures have been worse than the disease.

One reason for these conflicting views is that the answer depends on both facts and values.

Relevant facts include features of the virus like transmission rates and deaths. Government policies were often guided by scientific findings to reduce the spread of the virus and the resulting illnesses and deaths.

Relevant values include health and longevity, but also prosperity, opportunity, equality and freedom. Different people weigh those values differently.

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