Mandates don’t work

It’s time to end the mandates, restrictions and lockdowns.

The evidence shows these top-down actions by government have no measurable impact.

No matter how often authorities point to cherry-picked studies suggesting otherwise, such reports do not hold up to unbiased scrutiny.

This conclusion is universal, but let’s take a look at our local example.

Shelby County

In December, the Director of the Shelby County Health Department had this to say prior to releasing a new set of restrictive orders:

In this brief quote, Director Haushalter made the following points:

  • Shelby County’s numbers were among the best in the state
  • Tennessee was “on fire” and new policies were needed
  • Without new restrictions, there would be a very difficult January
  • Local actions can substitute for broader actions

I agree with the last point.

All American citizens, especially those who are concerned about state governments removing or refusing to impose restrictions, can continue to do as we’ve always done: follow the best guidance available and take precautionary measures to protect ourselves and others. This does not require mandates.

The other three points are suspect.

Shelby County among the best?

Shelby County’s numbers have not been drastically different than any of the largest counties across the state.

The chart above shows cases per 100,000 in the state of Tennessee’s ten most populous counties.

As you can see, these counties almost uniformly rise and fall together.

Cases rose through the beginning of August, then slumped through September, rose for a month and dipped, rose for another month and dipped, once again rose for a month and dipped, and have fallen since around the first of the year.

If policies had any measurable impact, we wouldn’t see this same pattern repeated across the state, as these local governments were not uniform in their response to the pandemic.

We can also compare Shelby County to its surrounding communities.

Above is a map of cases per 100,000 in Shelby County and the surrounding counties of Tipton, Fayette, Crittenden, DeSoto and Marshall.

Here also, cases rose through August, fell through September, mainly rose through the end of the year, and have fallen sharply since early January.

These communities had different policies, implemented at different times, but ended up with the same pattern.

Tennessee on fire?

It’s true the state had the highest ratio of new cases in the nation for a spell in December. Tennessee’s moment as the top state for cases was brief, and there’s nothing to indicate that fact had anything to do with state policy.

Above is a chart of cases per 100,000 in the southern states of Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida and Tennessee.

Once again, you can see the numbers in the entire region largely rose and fell together. Each of these states mounted a hill in July, traversed a valley for a few months, climbed a mountain at the end of the year, and then slid sharply in 2021.

Governor Bill Lee was under intense pressure in December to institute statewide restrictions. He declined to do that, and… cases fell.

The experts predicted the opposite.

A very difficult January?

With numbers increasing at the end of the year and with holidays and new variants on the horizon, health officials were convinced that the state’s failure to implement new restrictions would result in an explosion of new cases.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, Tennessee cases fell and locked-down California took a turn leading the nation in new cases. Though cases were falling nationwide, some of the states with the most severe restrictions joined the leaderboard, including New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

No better off

Shelby County’s numbers paralleled the larger state trend despite conflicting policy choices.

Shelby County did a little worse at first, then a little better, and now we’re about even with the state.

There’s no evidence that local mandates, 25% capacity restrictions and early curfews had any impact outside of economic fallout.

But the county focused on these measures at the expense of giving more time and attention to the vaccine distribution, which is the one thing the health department could have done to make a real impact on case rates.

It would have been harder for the state to justify a limited government approach if other interventions had shown real promise. Unfortunately for those who have been hardest hit, that has simply not been the case.

It’s time to end the mandates, restrictions and lockdowns.