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Are Lockdowns, Social Distancing, and Face Masks Really Working? the Numbers Say No.

Updated on July 16, 2020
Paul Kozma profile image

Being a math major in college, I've always loved numbers and the power and beauty they possess when presenting facts over fiction.

Reviewing the Results
Reviewing the Results | Source

How to Measure the Success/Failure of the COVID-19 Containment Process

Can Containment Results be Measured?

People can debate any topic to death, and arguing the containment process of COVID-19 is no exception. But debates alone cannot determine the success or failure of this process. There need to be measurable data points comparing current results to the past, which lead to meaningful assumptions.

Though very little historical data exists for COVID-19, decades of historical data exist for the flu. With that data, we should be able to take the existing containment process, and by applying this year's flu results, draw meaningful conclusions to the success or failure of the containment process.

Starting List of Activities
Starting List of Activities | Source

Key Containment Activities


The strategy behind lockdowns is quite essential. Confine people to their homes while restricting their interaction with other people as much as possible. By virtually eliminating human interaction, the spread of the coronavirus should be reduced or eliminated.

There are no existing scientific studies that support lockdowns as an effective means for containing a virus.

Social Distancing

The CDC states that "To practice social or physical distancing: Stay at least 6 feet (about two arms' length) from other people. Do not gather in groups. Stay out of crowded places and avoid mass gatherings".

But why 6 feet when the WHO recommended 3 feet based on a study at Harvard. The determining factor comes down to the distance of the average sneeze, which is under 6 feet. By staying 6 feet apart, an individual would be outside the contact zone.

Though no scientific studies exist to support social distancing as an effective method to control a virus, the 6-foot distance was adopted and implemented.

Wearing of face masks

Wired reports, "There are no large-scale clinical trials proving that personal use of masks can prevent the pandemic spread." Snopes says, "It can cause dizziness and lightheadedness. If you wear a mask long enough, it can damage the lungs. For a patient in respiratory distress, it can even be life-threatening".

So why do we wear face masks at all? The answer lies in the sneeze going out versus the cold coming in. When people sneeze, if the mouth is not covered, the droplets could travel up to 6 feet. Wearing the face mask contains the sneeze within the cover, even though sneezing is not a symptom of COVID-19.

Frequent Washing of Hands

Scientific studies are supporting the frequent washing of hands as an effective method in preventing the spread of viruses. The CDC says, "Teaching people about handwashing helps them, and their communities stay healthy."

At Harvard University, "A 2006 study found that hand washing can cut the risk of respiratory infection by 16 percent and a 2008 study showed a 21 percent reduction". They also reported people to tend to touch their faces on average 23 times an hour. Since a virus can enter via the nose, mouth, or eyes, it necessary not to touch your face until after you wash your hands.

Key Activities For COVID-19 Containment

Additional Information
Not Scientifically Validated
Social Distancing
Not Scientifically Validated
Wearing of Facemasks
Not Scientifically Validated, Not Recommended
Frequent Washing of Hands
Scientifically Validated
Hitting Your Target
Hitting Your Target | Source

Expectations, and Results


Since the incubation period of COVID-19 can be up to 2 weeks, having a lockdown period for more than two weeks, should significantly reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Based on that logic, the initial lockdown period was determined to be one month.

If a one-month lockdown proved useful for the coronavirus, then the flu, with an incubation period of only two days, should also benefit with even better results. The flu also has the advantage of available vaccines.

Flu Results

We will be using CDC data (see table below) from 2017 to 2020.

When comparing 2020 to 2019, the 2020 results were worse than in 2019. Infections were up 60%, people hospitalized up 51%, deaths up 82%, and the percentage of fatalities up 20%. When comparing 2020 to the averages of 2017 through 2019, the 2020 numbers were still worse. Infections are up 53%, hospitalized up 24%, deaths up 40%, and the percent of fatalities up 13.6%.

The CDC reported the 2020 flu season to be worse than expected, especially for the young, even though all schools were closed throughout the United States.

Annual Flu Numbers from 2017 to 2020

Percent Hospital Deaths
Concluding the Facts
Concluding the Facts | Source


In reviewing the flu numbers straight up, the results indicate that lockdowns, in general, are ineffective against viruses. The expectation for flu results to show improvements in all categories would have supported the containment process. Instead, the opposite results occurred with all types having declining numbers.

In the containment process, 330 million Americans still have access to stores, but only those stores deemed essential. Essential stores are food stores, Walmarts, Targets, Home Depots, Fedex's, Amazon's, the US Postal System, (just to name a few), and available to the public.

But by restricting 330 million Americans to a limited number of essential channels, these channels have become super-saturated with people. Though face masks and social distancing are supposed to handle this super-saturation, the flu results strongly indicate these to be ineffective as well.

Deep in Thought
Deep in Thought | Source

Final Thoughts

If the purpose of containing 330 million people was to stop the spread of COVID-19, then this effort was a failure. If the isolation of 330 million people worked as planned, it would have been next to impossible for flu numbers to get worse, and yet they did. Not only did they get worse, but it was also one of the worst flu seasons in the past ten years.

Dr. John Ioannidas, as reported by the Mercurynews, estimates the mortality rate of COVID-19 to be between .02% to .4%, much lower than previously thought. The University of Maryland determined COVID-19 to be seasonal, so cases and deaths for COVID-19 are dropping naturally, with or without containment.

Over 85% of COVID-19 deaths in the US are people 65 or older. Less than 15,000 people who have died are under 65. These numbers suggest only restricting people over 65, or let them self-imposed restrictions, as many already do for flu season.

Does it make sense to have 36 million people unemployed because of 15,000 deaths to people under 65? I’m 67 years old, and I say it does not. So the next logical question is what to do about it, and to answer that question, one needs only to analyze the data to determine, is the containment process helping or hurting?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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