Back to Navigation

Lockdowns | Munk Debates

EPISODE #38

Lockdowns

Be it Resolved, the reintroduction of shutdowns needs to be considered in U.S. states where COVID-19 infections are surging.

Guests
Andrew Noymer
John Ioannidis

About this episode

Over five million cases. More than 160,000 deaths, and counting. The U.S. currently leads the global tally for the highest number of COVID-19 cases. California, an early success story, has had to aggressively rollback the reopening of schools and business. Louisiana, Idaho, Texas, and Nevada are among dozens of states experiencing surging case counts, rising hospitalizations and increased deaths. Meanwhile some countries, originally devasted by the coronavirus, are reopening successfully, after driving new infections down to manageable levels. When public health policies, such as physical distancing, hand washing, masks, and increased testing, can’t bend the curve in new infections, some say the only way to prevent tens of thousands of more deaths is a second wave of shutdowns targeting the hardest hit areas. Critics say with shutdowns, the supposed “cure”, is worse than the disease. Millions will be denied essential medical treatment, including mental health. Jobs and businesses will be permanently lost. And, closed schools will prevent a much-needed return to normalcy for children and parents alike. Shutdowns are not the answer to the ongoing threat of COVID-19.

Share:

Guests

Andrew Noymer

“The pandemic is boiling over in many locations in the United States and the most effective way to turn down the heat is to go into another shutdown.”

Andrew Noymer

“The pandemic is boiling over in many locations in the United States and the most effective way to turn down the heat is to go into another shutdown.”

Andrew Noymer is an epidemiologist and population health scientist at the University of California,
Irvine, where he is associate professor in the Department of Population Health and Disease Prevention. 
Prof. Noymer holds a PhD in sociology from Berkeley, where he was also an NIA and NICHD trainee in demography, an MSc in medical demography from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and an AB in biology from Harvard University. A specialist in infectious disease mortality, Prof. Noymer has closely studied the prior modern pandemics of influenza (2009,1968,1957, and the most severe, 1918) from demographic, epidemiological, and social perspective. The coronavirus pandemic is the signature global health event of the early 21st century, and understanding it requires multiple viewpoints.  Prof Noymer is active on Twitter (@AndrewNoymer) in doing public information on COVID-19, and he predicted in January that the coronavirus pandemic would have severe outcomes, as we now know it already has. Prof Noymer’s scholarly work, on a number of aspects of population health, particularly mortality, is sampled on his webpage: https://webfiles.uci.edu/noymer/web/.

John Ioannidis

“A shutdown is a medieval measure. It's the equivalent of cutting your arm because of some joint pain in your hand. “

John Ioannidis

“A shutdown is a medieval measure. It's the equivalent of cutting your arm because of some joint pain in your hand. “

John P.A. Ioannidis, MD, DSc is Professor of Medicine, Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health, and Professor (by courtesy) of Biomedical Data Science at the School of Medicine, Professor (by courtesy) of Statistics at the School of Humanities and Sciences, and co-Director of the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS) at Stanford University. He is the recipient of many awards and he has been elected as Einstein fellow at the Berlin Institute of Health. He has been inducted in the Association of American Physicians, the European Academy of Cancer Sciences, the American Epidemiological Society, the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the US National Academy of Medicine. With over 5000 new citations to his work per month in the scientific literature, he is one of the most-cited scientists worldwide. In his webpage at Stanford he states that he loves to be constantly reminded that he knows next to nothing.
 

Show Notes

Lockdown, shutdown, and shelter in place are some of the terms used during the debate. You can learn about the distinction between these different terms here.
 
In March of 2020, Dr. John Ioannidis wrote an essay that went viral on social media in which he questioned the effectiveness of using lockdowns as a tool in the absence of reliable COVID-19 data. In this recent Q&A, Dr. Ioannidis discusses his updated findings on the prevalence of COVID-19 and the political debate that inevitably ensues. You can find a bibliography of Dr. Ioannidis’ 100+ peer reviewed publications here.
 
Andrew Noymer has also published extensively, including research about the 1918 influenza epidemic. You can find his bibliography here and follow him on Twitter @AndrewNoymer.
 
The US Centre for Disease Control tracks the prevalence of COVID-19 cases and deaths  here. During the debate Dr. John Ioannidis suggests that a levelling off of COVID-19 cases is taking place. An ABC news report about an internal FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) memo supports this view.
 
During the debate both Dr. John Ioannidis and Andrew Noymer refer to an Imperial College of London modelling study that was published in Nature. “Estimating the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in Europe” looked at restrictions in 13 European countries up to May 2020 and used disease modelling to predict that 3.2 million people would have died if lockdowns had not been put into place. BBC News highlights the study’s key findings.
 
The debate included a discussion on school closures. Dr. John Ioannides argues that schools should be kept open because it is very rare for children to die from COVID-19 and schools do not play a significant role in spreading the virus when compared to other “super spreader” events. Andrew Noymer refers to a recent Centre for Disease Control study of a sleep over camp in Georgia that found that 260 out of 344 campers and staff tested positive for COVID-19, indicating that young people do play a significant role in transmitting the virus.
 
Dr. John Ioannidis refers to research by his Stanford University colleague, Nobel-prize winning Michael Levitt, that suggests that the pandemic ended in China not because of the lockdown but because it peaked and that this will also happen in the United States. Levitt’s research indicates that the virus does not follow an exponential growth law and is naturally self-flattening. You can learn more about his research here.

Comments