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COVID-19 cases are falling nationwide

Today, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 561 new COVID-19 cases. This is one of Minnesota’s lowest numbers since the pandemic peaked. Minnesota has continued to experience positive outcomes — cases, hospitalizations, deaths — the last couple of weeks. On February 21st, for instance, Minnesota had a total of 235 people hospitalized for COVID-19. This is 87 percent less than the November peak of 1,864.

This is a trend that we can also see nationwide. Regardless of measures in place, states are seeing a drop in cases and deaths nationally, albeit not at the same rate of change. In the past 6 weeks, COVID-19 cases have dropped 77 percent. 

There have of course been numerous explanations offered for this trend. Researchers have pointed to the probability that the virus is seasonal–cases drop and fall in a cycle. Additionally, others have credited the drop to herd immunity from vaccines as well as people already infected. According to a professor from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health, 

But the consistent and rapid decline in daily cases since Jan. 8 can be explained only by natural immunity. Behavior didn’t suddenly improve over the holidays; Americans traveled more over Christmas than they had since March. Vaccines also don’t explain the steep decline in January. Vaccination rates were low and they take weeks to kick in.

It is also quite possible people are taking mare precautions to prevent spread. Warming weather can also be an explanation. Declining in testing can also be a likely contributor. In short, not one single answer explains the trend for declining COVID-19 cases. What is, however, not a contender as a possible explanation for this trend is lockdowns. For despite differences in COVID-19 trends have been similar across regions.

With different restrictions, Minnesota and Wisconsin faced identical results

Let us look for instance at how Minnesota and its neighbors have fared with COVID-19.  Minnesota and its neighboring states followed very different procedures. Nevertheless, cases have moved similarly among the states, peaking around November.

Source: Covidtracking.com

Minnesota and Wisconsin offer an even better point of comparison. The neighbors are similar in so many ways, even some that matter for infection –population, weather–. The two states also differed significantly on COVID-19 measures.

But looking at data, COVID-19 outcomes between the two states have been nearly identical. Minnesota has, however, performed worse economically, with one of the highest job losses in 2020.

Be it seasonality, herd immunity, people taking precautions, warming weather, or less testing, one thing we can take from recent trends is that lockdowns have only managed to do wreck our economy without controlling the virus.

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