The Costs of Covid Shutdowns

It was obvious early in the covid epidemic that the benefits of lockdowns were speculative and hypothetical, while the costs were large and undeniable. Now that the dust has settled, those costs can be quantified.

My staff has produced two new papers on the costs of the covid shutdowns in Minnesota. While their analyses are state-specific, it is reasonable to assume that their findings would be reflected in other states, depending on the severity of shutdowns there.

Part One was authored by economists John Phelan and Martha Njolomole. They performed a multi-factor regression analysis to isolate the influence of more or less severe covid shutdowns on states’ economies. They used the week by week severity index that was created by scholars at Oxford University and controlled for the rate of covid infection, tax policies, and the extent to which each state’s economy relies on tourism and hospitality, the sectors hit hardest by shutdowns.

Their conclusion is that GDP growth during the covid era was negatively associated with shutdown stringency, such that an average household of four in Minnesota lost around $7,500 in GDP, due to our state’s lockdown, through May 2021.

Part Two, authored by Catrin Wigfall, analyzes the impact of Minnesota’s school shutdowns on children’s education. She doesn’t examine the school closures’ impact on mental health, socialization, and so on. Rather, her focus is exclusively on academic achievement. She concludes that covid shutdowns, dictated by the state’s teachers’ union, devastated the educational progress of Minnesota’s students.

This chart tells the story: performance in reading and math fell off a cliff when the schools shut down, and performance hasn’t rebounded. It continues to be terrible:

That chart, by the way, figures prominently in Dr. Scott Jensen’s campaign for governor. Perhaps the most appalling statistic is that currently, only 36% of Minnesota’s 11th graders can do math at grade level–a low bar. That isn’t entirely due to covid shutdowns, of course. The state’s public schools have been bad for a long time. But the problem was obviously aggravated by closing down the schools.

Much, much more at the links.

Will there ever be an accounting for the damage that was done by covid hysteria on the part of government officials? Perhaps, to a limited degree. Our own governor, Tim Walz, was a covid Nazi who seemed to take pride in inflicting maximum damage on his own state. He has fallen behind in the most recent poll, and I think will lose to Jensen, who has been an outspoken critic of Walz’s covid shutdowns since 2020. We will see whether the same happens in other states. Gretchen Whitmer, for example, is locked in a tight race for re-election. But how much that has to do with her covid policies, as opposed to the general disdain in which Democrats are currently held, I don’t know.

Conversely, governors who kept their states open in defiance of the prevailing hysteria, like Ron DeSantis and Kristi Noem, are cruising to easy re-election. So maybe we are seeing democracy work as it is supposed to.

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