Nelson: Louisiana – Confirmation bias in action?
Published 8:38 am Saturday, August 29, 2020
The Marx Brothers famously quipped, “Who yagonna believe, me or your own eyes?” In Louisiana, our daily COVID-19 briefings have taken on the same spirit. Our hospitals were never overrun, the lockdown did not stop the spread and “two more weeks” of restrictions has become six months. At some point, we must hold our leaders accountable with their own facts.
The data from Louisiana Department of Health clearly shows that the mask mandates and bar closures are not responsible for the fall in cases. COVID-19 cases peaked on July 13, the same day these additional restrictions went into effect. In fact, cases fell 26 percent in the next two-weeks before they would have had any impact in the case counts; however, the governor was quick to claim credit. This follows a pattern of “confirmation bias” whereby any decrease in cases is attributed to enhanced restrictions while failures are blamed on the people’s lack of compliance. The truth is that any policy enacted at the peak of an epidemic will be followed by decreasing case counts. The governor could have mandated we all wear tin foil hats on July 13, and the cases would have still decreased. False interpretations of the data have unnecessarily prolonged interventions that have no justification in observed results.
The current decrease in COVID-19 in Louisiana is more accurately attributed to the development of herd immunity in the population. That the hardest hit areas, particularly New Orleans, largely escaped the second wave of summer infections supports this explanation. Around the world in New York, Sweden and England, the same phenomenon has been observed. After an expansive outbreak, the virus subsides. This outcome is also consistent with thousands of years of human experience in epidemiology.
The government should provide accurate, objective information from which citizens can assess their own risk, not doomsday predictions and half-truths to control behavior through fear. Turning neighbors against each other for the sake of enforcement is just as egregious. These actions undermine faith in government and infringe on the freedoms that define us as a people. The observed data does not support the current mandatory restrictions, and they should be eliminated in favor of voluntary recommendations. Individuals and businesses should decide the safest and most practical way to conduct themselves. COVID-19 has a CDC-estimated 0.65 percent mortality rate, and the median age of a COVID-related death in Louisiana is 76. These facts should be used to focus policies on protecting the most vulnerable, not close bars and kindergartens.
The Aztecs sacrificed thousands of people every year to make sure the sun would rise each morning. Let us not make the same mistakes.
Richard Nelson (Mandeville-Republican) serves in the District 89 seat for St. Tammany Parish in the Louisiana State House of Representatives.He can be contacted at 985.222.2683 or firstname.lastname@example.org.