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A new study from Penn State University claims that “the number of early COVID-19 cases in the U.S. may have been more than 80 times greater and doubled nearly twice as fast as originally believed.”

In a commentary on Conservative Review published June 25, Daniel Horowitz says this data suggests three things: that the lockdowns missed the boat, that testing metrics are meaningless, given the large amount of infected people with no symptoms, and that border shutdowns are far more useful in stopping the introduction of a virus.

On the first point, Horowitz argues that the lockdowns came too late to have any true effect:

“By the time we locked down, this virus was already spreading far and wide. The CDC’s own research on mitigating the spread of flu indicates that ‘the effectiveness of pandemic mitigation strategies will erode rapidly as the cumulative illness rate prior to implementation climbs above 1 percent of the population in an affected area.’”

Horowitz adds that the lockdowns were “never going to work,” given the prevalence of the virus by the time the shutdowns were enacted.

On the second point, Horowitz says the testing metrics are meaningless, given the amount of infected people without symptoms who were not tested in the early months of the virus:

“Given that there were 87 times more cases than what had been unidentified through testing in March, imagine how many tens of millions have gotten the virus since then? What this study shows is that the virus spreads like the flu, unlike SARS-CoV-1 in 2003, which was rare and deadly. This is the context the media fails to provide when trumpeting more cases in the southern states. Now that we have universal testing in hospitals and anyone can obtain a test anywhere else, we are discovering more of what already was spreading for a while. It’s not surprising, now that hospitals are back up to capacity with typical patients, that a large percentage of them are testing positive for the virus, even though they don’t have serious cases.”

Indeed, as he states, if people were tested at the rate they are currently, it is likely that we would have seen a much larger number of confirmed cases in March. 

Lastly, Horowitz focuses on border shutdowns as a potentially successful method of mitigating the initial introduction of a virus into the country:

“While the virus peaked in the U.S. from late March to early April, fatalities in Mexico didn’t begin to spike until May, which is when people with proper documentation to enter the U.S. began stampeding toward U.S. hospitals at the border.

 

“Thus, the lesson is that the one thing you can do is prevent the introduction of a virus before it takes off. There’s not much to do after it has already started.”

Currently, an uptick in confirmed cases of the virus in Texas is causing regression from the phased reopening plan and restrictions to be put in place once again.