Coronavirus Curfews Are Trending Again, Despite Total Lack of Evidence They Help
Coronaviruses don’t get more deadly or dangerous after dark. Yet across the country, leaders are imposing new curfews on their residents and businesses in the name of stopping COVID-19.
Those advocating for curfews argue that when it comes to places serving alcohol, earlier closures will mean fewer drunk patrons, better decisions, and better hygiene. (“Shenanigans happen at night,” said one public health professor.) Others suggest that limiting the hours people can shop or leave their houses recreationally will decrease opportunities for the virus to spread overall. And some leaders have suggested they’re doing it to send the right message about the pandemic.
But…there’s no evidence that this is indeed the case. And it’s just as likely that limited hours mean more people cramming their shopping, socializing, and errands into the same hours, making establishments more crowded and ensuring longer waits in transmission-friendly lines. Besides, not everyone has a job or home and family responsibilities that make state-approved socializing hours possible. Making residents stay in their homes after a certain hour eliminates people’s ability to meet non-household members in safer ways—like taking walks together, meeting in yards or on porches, or patronizing places where the weather or heat lamps still permit—and it also invites selective and discriminatory enforcement.
Public health experts have criticized curfews, although some have done so on the grounds that they don’t go far enough. The consensus seems to be that there’s just little logic in them.
George Mason Univesity epidemiologist Saskia Popescu told Cleveland.com that the challenge with imposing curfews is that “it not only is likely to condense patrons into a smaller window of time, but for things like an outdoor restaurant or even gym, that might be a time with slower business and fewer people, which would make it safer. A better course of action is to focus on those high-risk activities and either temporarily halt them or find ways to make them safer.”
“It seems like it’s spreading all over, but I’ve seen no evidence it helps anything,” Kent State University public health professor Tara C. Smith told Vox‘s Dylan Scott. “I’ve not seen a single public health person recommend this as an intervention. I’m mystified at their popularity.”
Despite the lack of evidence for their efficacy, New York, Ohio, and Oklahoma are among the states to bring curfews back. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week announced a curfew for alcohol-serving establishments. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt gave a new order on Monday that institutes an 11 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants.
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