Fact Check: Are COVID-19 Shutdowns ‘Ineffective’?

Our weekly check-in with the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

By Brandon Mulder, PolitiFact Texas/Austin American-Statesman; radio story produced by Alexandra HartDecember 2, 2020 1:01 pm, , ,

From PolitiFact Texas:

Examining The Effectiveness Of Texas’ Statewide Shutdowns

Several days after Gov. Greg Abbott declared that he wouldn’t impose “any more lockdowns” amid rising coronavirus cases, he defended that decision in a Nov. 19 press conference in Lubbock, where he was promoting the state’s distribution of a new antibody therapy.

He gave two reasons for not imposing the sort of shutdown measures he had implemented statewide twice before. First, shutdowns can have severe consequences on the mental, emotional and financial health of people, he said.

“Lesser known, however, is the ineffectiveness of it,” Abbott continued.

“One thing that we’ve learned over the course of COVID is, one of the most common ways that COVID is spread today is not by someone going to work, but by people gathering together in home settings or in casual settings — after bars close or something like that,” he said. “So shutdowns will not lead to the positive results that some people think.”

Abbott issued his last statewide order restricting business operations near the end of June, when Texas was reporting what were then record-breaking daily case numbers — over 5,000 new cases for several consecutive days. He ordered bars closed, scaled back restaurant occupancy to 50% and allowed local governments to place restrictions on outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

In mid-September, as daily cases had dropped to an average of about 3,500, Abbott allowed restaurants, stores and offices to expand to 75% capacity in trauma service areas where COVID-19 patients occupied 15% or fewer of available hospital beds. In mid-October, he gave county officials the authority to allow bars to reopen, again as long as COVID-19 patients occupied 15% or fewer of hospital beds in the area. But by then, daily case numbers were beginning to rise again, and have continued to increase. This past week saw multiple records posted, with 14,600 new coronavirus cases recorded on Wednesday.

With such a rapid escalation of transmission across the state, we wanted to know whether statewide shutdowns are ineffective as Abbott says. And have we learned over the course of the pandemic that the virus is not commonly spread in workplaces?

PolitiFact rates Abbott’s claim as False.

Read the full story at PolitiFact Texas, and hear the full interview with PolitiFact’s Brandon Mulder in the audio player above.

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