Texas: No lockdowns or masks for a month, cases down by half.

On March 10th, four weeks ago tomorrow, the State of Texas in the United States ended all Coronavirus lockdown restrictions. By all, we mean just that: All. No masks. No restrictions on travel. No limits on opening businesses or gathering indoors. No laws against religious worship, or going to the beach. All restrictions in Texas have been done and dusted for just 24 hours short of a month.

How’s it going? Let’s have a look at the data:

On the far left of the graph is March 6th, four days before all restrictions were lifted. At that stage Texas (which has a population about seven times that of Ireland) was experiencing a 7 day average of about 6,000 cases per day.

Sunday, April 4th, is the last day for which we have data. Texas experienced, as you can see, just 1,012 new cases (a vastly lower number per head of population than Ireland) and the seven day average had dropped to less than 3,000 cases.

What explains this?

In Ireland, we are assured that lifting lockdown restrictions would result in a devastating third or fourth (depending on how you count these things) wave of the virus. But in Texas, where there’s no lockdown at all, case numbers are actually lower than they are here. What gives?

It is important at this stage to put in a number of caveats: The lifting of a mask mandate does not mean that masks are banned, and the lifting of bans on eating out and going to church and socialising does not mean that those things are compulsory. It’s fair to assume that even with no mandatory restrictions, a good number of Texans are still being voluntarily cautious about the virus, and that may be having some impact on the numbers.

But of course, you would expect the same thing to happen in Ireland if all restrictions were lifted in the morning.

There are also those who will argue that the weather in Texas is better than it is in Ireland, and that’s having some impact. But of course, that didn’t save the Texans (who have warm weather, pretty much, all year around) from the worst of the winter spike, or the initial infection.

We are left then with only two possible options: Either Texas’s infinitely superior vaccine effort is making the key difference in reducing cases, hospitalisations, and deaths, or lockdown just doesn’t make much difference.

The vaccine case is pretty strong: Texas has no official numbers for those vaccinated, but the surrounding states – Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico, have all vaccinated about two thirds of those in vulnerable categories, and about 40% of the population overall. You’d expect the Texan numbers to be similar. That may be having an impact.

But even at that, it wouldn’t tell the whole story. For example, we are repeatedly told in Ireland that there’s a danger of a massive outbreak amongst the young and the reckless if restrictions are lifted before enough people are vaccinated. That hasn’t happened in Texas.

You can draw your own conclusions, but it’s hard to look at these numbers and conclude that Texas would be better off with mandatory masks and covid lockdowns, isn’t it?

What’s very interesting of course is that the rest of the Irish media would never dream of reporting these numbers, or the context of them.

But it is important information. Ireland’s lockdown is costing us money, jobs, businesses, and mental health for every day that it endures. When other places are getting better results without any lockdown at all, isn’t it time to ask some questions?

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