The CDC has long maintained that the coronavirus is transmitted through droplets spread among people in close proximity to one another. On Friday, it updated its guidelines, adding that the virus also spreads through “respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes,” adding that this is the main vector of infection.
The guidance no longer says COVID-19 can be spread through the air, and the agency said it will update the language once its review process “has been completed.”
But we now have more evidence. We have learned, for example, that young people are at almost no risk and that outdoor transmission is extremely rare. Knowing what we now know, we would almost certainly not have imposed such draconian closures. But, like the citizens of Columbus, we don’t like to think about that.
It is becoming clear that the severity of a lockdown does not correlate significantly either with the spread of the coronavirus or the rate of deaths. I noted in this column a couple of weeks back that the states that had remained open had, if anything, fared better than the rest. We can now also see that the states that ended the closures early, such as Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, are not suffering any noticeable new surge. It is a similar picture in Europe, where Spain and Italy, with very harsh quarantines, suffered worse than the Netherlands and Germany, where the restrictions were moderate.
But none of that will alter the verdict. The counterexample of 1930s Britain does not dent the confidence of New Deal enthusiasts. The counterexample of Iceland, which refused to rescue its bankers and bounced back quickly from the financial crisis, does not dent the confidence of bailout enthusiasts. And the counterexample of Sweden, which left shops and businesses open and told people to use their common sense, will not change the minds of lockdown enthusiasts.