Following up on PaV’s post the other day, “Pass me a Corona,” it’s worth asking, how reliable are the data we are freaking out over anyway? The famed fake stats debunker John Ioannidis gives good reasons for doubt and also adds:
In the absence of data, prepare-for-the-worst reasoning leads to extreme measures of social distancing and lockdowns. Unfortunately, we do not know if these measures work. School closures, for example, may reduce transmission rates. But they may also backfire if children socialize anyhow, if school closure leads children to spend more time with susceptible elderly family members, if children at home disrupt their parents ability to work, and more. School closures may also diminish the chances of developing herd immunity in an age group that is spared serious disease…
One of the bottom lines is that we don’t know how long social distancing measures and lockdowns can be maintained without major consequences to the economy, society, and mental health. Unpredictable evolutions may ensue, including financial crisis, unrest, civil strife, war, and a meltdown of the social fabric. At a minimum, we need unbiased prevalence and incidence data for the evolving infectious load to guide decision-making.John P. A. Ioannidis, “A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data” at STAT
One might add, every place isn’t like every other place. There may be lot we don’t know about the worst scenarios such that extreme reactions based on hearing about them are all the more unwise, leading to harm from problems created by efforts to avoid the contagion.