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Coronavirus Chaos

Coronavirus Numbers Are Dropping – But Media Hypes Variants

N95 Mask. Image: Creative Commons.

A seemingly scary story in The Wall Street Journal, by Jason Douglas and Joanna Sugden, warns of “a more‐​contagious and possibly deadlier coronavirus variant” in the U.K., implying that British cases and deaths are spreading faster than before.

The reason the new “more contagious” strain is supposedly spreading so rapidly, they suggest, is because the British government failed to continue a suitably strict lockdown on businesses, workers, and consumers.

“When lockdown lifted in early December,” write Douglas and Sugden, “the new variant went national.” But the U.K. never really “lifted” the lockdown. They just eased it modestly — in lower‐​risk locations‐ from Dec. 2 to Jan 4 (“until at least mid‐​February”). And the authors of this story neglect to tell readers what happened to COVID-19 infections and deaths recently about three months after the new variant “went national.”

What happened is that the 7‐​day average of new cases has fallen by a third‐ from 14,899 on December 1 to 10,089 on February 26, according to The New York Times. COVID-19 is not spreading faster with the new variant. On the contrary, COVID-19 is spreading much more slowly than in early December, when this Wall Street Journal story marked the start of a supposedly frightening new national variant.

Such inconvenient facts would not fit very well in this otherwise exciting story about new variants of COVID-19, which experts wrongly predicted would make infections grow more rapidly.

Economist Alan Reynolds is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, and former vice president of the First National Bank of Chicago. He served as research director with Jack Kemp’s 1995–96 Tax Reform Commission, and with Larry Kudlow and Alan Greenspan as a member of President Reagan’s 1981 transition team. 

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