The Models Were Wildly Wrong about Reopening Too

Phillip Magness:

Most of the United States entered into a tepid reopening from the COVID lockdowns in mid-May. Although the reopening process has advanced through an interminable succession of bureaucratic phases with most of the country remaining under varying degrees of restriction as of mid-July, the reopening process has remained under sustained criticism from the media and a segment of the epidemiology profession since the moment it started.

Back on May 24th the epidemiology team at Imperial College London (ICL) published a study that expanded on their now-notorious COVID-19 model. Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson both cited the apocalyptic projections of this report and its lead author Neil Ferguson back in March to justify their decisions to lock everything down.

The follow-up ICL paper from May attempted to model the effects of reopening in 5 US states: New York, Massachusetts, California, Washington, and Florida. In all five cases, the Imperial College team predicted an aggressive rebound of COVID-19 fatalities under even the most modest relaxation of stay-at-home policies and practices.

To illustrate this pattern, the ICL team presented three scenarios based on the expected change in human mobility in each state after the lifting of lockdown restrictions. The first scenario kept the lockdowns in place, assuming that mobility would remain constant at its severely reduced post-lockdown rate. Under the other two scenarios, the ICL team assumed a 20% and 40% increase of mobility corresponding with the reopening process.