A year ago, on the 23rd March, 2020, Boris Johnson, in a public statement, announced that the country faced a “moment of national emergency” and that staying at home was necessary to protect the NHS and save lives. He said the restrictions would be in place for at least three weeks and would be kept under constant review. While the restrictions have been tweaked, relaxed, and reimposed at various times since then, they largely remain in place 12 months later.
Six months after Boris made that statement, on 24th September, 2020, the governor of the state of Florida, Ron DeSantis, held an online roundtable meeting with three prominent scientists: Jay Bhattacharya, a medical professor at Stanford University, Martin Kulldorff, a biostatistician and epidemiologist who is a professor in the medical school at Harvard University and Michael Levitt, a biophysicist and professor of medicine at Stanford University, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2013.
The following day he announced that he was lifting all restrictions on businesses statewide that were imposed to control the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Which, for example, meant that restaurants and bars in the state could now operate at full capacity.
That effectively ended the lockdown in Florida, since other restrictions, such as those on schools doing in person teaching, had already ended.
At the time, this raised eyebrows, and Anthony Fauci said ““When you’re dealing with community spread, and you have the kind of congregate setting where people get together, particularly without masks, you’re really asking for trouble. Now’s the time actually to double down a bit.” ”
However, outside the US, there was little coverage in the media of what was happening in Florida. To this day, the BBC has hardly covered it at all, though in a story this week, it said “Florida continues to be a coronavirus hotspot in the US. The state has recorded nearly two million of the country’s 29 million infections since the pandemic began.””
So – what actually happened in Florida?
If you look at the statistics at Worldometers, at the moment, Florida has had over 2 million Covid cases – making it the number 3 state in America for cases. However, since Florida is the number 3 state in America in population, that is not particularly surprising. It is more interesting that in terms of Covid deaths, Florida is at number 4, which suggests that they are doing better than some places.
However, the important thing is to look at the actual numbers, and see how Florida compares.
And if you do, you will see that in terms of Covid deaths per head of population, Florida is actually better than average in America – at 1525 per million, as opposed to the US average of 1678 per million.
But the crucial question that needs to be asked is “What difference did it make when the governor of Florida ended the restrictions 6 months ago? Did things in Florida get much worse?”
Here are the relevant figures:
Covid Deaths to 25th September, 2020: 209,409.
Covid deaths 25th September 2020 – 23rd March 2021: 346,536
Total Covid deaths at 23rd March 2021: 555,945
Covid Deaths at 25th September, 2020: 13,915.
Covid deaths 25th September 2020 – 23rd March 2021: 18,877
Total Covid deaths at 23rd March 2021: 32,792
So, for the USA as a whole, in the period up to 25th September, the covid death rate was 627 per million, and in the period between then and now it was 1043 per million.
For Florida, in the period up to 25th September, the covid death rate was 648 per million, and in the period between then and now, it was 879 per million.
In other words, while Florida’s Covid death rate before they ended the lockdown was 3.3% above the American average, in the period since they ended the lockdown, it has been about 16% below the American average.
To be honest, that is astonishing. Not only did things in Florida not get much worse than the rest of the country, they didn’t get actually get worse at all. If anything, they got better.
What is particularly interesting is to compare Florida with California, a state that has been notable in having what is probably the tightest lockdown in America. And the numbers are very interesting.
Covid Deaths at 25th September, 2020: : 15,549
Covid deaths 25th September 2020 – 23rd March 2021 : 41,818
Total Covid deaths at 23rd March 2021: 57,367
In other words, before Florida ended its lockdown, California had a covid death rate of 394 per million, whereas since Florida ended its lockdown, California had death rate of 1058 per million.
So Florida’s Covid death rate before they ended the lockdown was a whopping 64% higher than that of California, but in the period since they ended the lockdown, it has actually been lower than that of California – 17% lower.
What do we make of this?
How many people expected that? Not many I suspect. If lockdowns actually did save lives, we would expect that Florida’s COVID death rate, relative to the rest of the US would have soared following the lifting of restrictions. If Florida’s relative death rate had only gone up slightly, it would have raised questions about whether the lockdowns were really worth it. The fact that it actually went down considerably blows a massive hole in the case for lockdowns.
But even without that, the evidence that lockdowns worked was very thin. There have been over 30 academic studies that have suggest that lockdowns are not effective in controlling the virus.
Not that you would know any of that from the BBC, or the governments in London and Edinburgh, or their chosen experts – all of whom continue to talk as if there is no question at all that lockdowns work. It is not that they don’t know. The Florida story has been covered in the Wall Street Journal – one of America’s most respected newspapers,, and, on American TV. The latter was interesting – because it concerned a White House covid advisor who was asked how one could explain the Florida story. He basically said he had no idea, and then moved hastily on to what he wanted to talk about.
Last week, the governor of Florida called another roundtable of scientists to look back on the experience of the past 6 months. As in September, he had Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kuldorff. This time they were joined by Professor Sunetra Gupta, an infection diseases epidemiologist from Oxford University and Professor Scott Atlas, a radiologist from Stanford.
During the discussion, Bhattacharya was asked about the efficacy of lockdowns. He responded:
“. . . the international evidence and the American evidence is clear. The lockdowns have not stopped the spread of the disease in any measurable way. The disease spreads by aerosol, by droplets. It’s a respiratory disease. It’s very difficult to stop. The idea of the lockdown is incredibly, in some ways, beguiling. If you just stay apart far enough, like rats in cages, we won’t spread the disease. But humans are not like that. . . . We created this sort of this illusion that we can control the disease spread when in fact we cannot and have failed to do so.”
That’s important. There is a widespread illusion, promoted by the much of the media and the political world, that we can control the spread of Covid. But all the indicators are that it is an illusion.
And it seems that there are plenty of people who want us to continue under that illusion. A year after the introduction of lockdowns, evidence is mounting that they don’t actually work. The fact that hardly anyone seems to be saying this, and the BBC seems determined not to mention it, is seriously worrying.