My unpublished COVID-19 paper is now my most cited paper

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Recently, my working paper Susceptible-Infected-Recovered (SIR) Dynamics of COVID-19 and Economic Impact has surpassed my JEBO paper in terms of citation counts, and has become my most cited paper. My COVID-19 paper is one of the very first written by an economist on this topic, and it appeared in the first issue of the working paper series Covid Economics. Although I am no longer working on this paper since the situation with COVID-19 has been changing too quickly (especially when I wrote the paper in March 2020) to keep up with, I am glad that this paper has made some impact. In fact, it was featured in VoxEU and Fortune articles.

Although the data analysis in my COVID-19 paper is now completely outdated, I believe its message is still valid. From the very beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, I have been consistently skeptical of drastic mitigation measures such as closure of schools, restaurants, and other businesses. These measures work only in totalitarian countries where the government has the ability to enforce the lockdown, and probably appear to work in such countries because totalitarian regimes do not report cases accurately anyway. It is unfortunate that US (in particular, California) has (at least initially) implemented draconian measures. Although I have no ability to do research in applied microeconomics, I am sure one can estimate the causal effects of lockdown on economic outcomes, education achievement, suicide, etc., and those negative effects will be big. The problem with lockdown is that it ignores the tradeoff between lives and everything else, and it is not even clear whether it saves lives (because the pandemic will not end until we achieve herd immunity, and lockdown only delays herd immunity). I think policy makers should focus on mild measures such as mask-wearing and hand-washing, which have clear benefits and little cost for implementation. Though not many people are saying so openly, I think we are moving in that (right) direction.