I don’t do back of the envelope calculations, largely because the harm of a bad estimate can be worse than the harm of no estimate. A rough guess will be biased in ways we cannot possibly predict. This is acutely true in a pandemic, where academic work is being quoted out of context, discussed on Fox News, and people drink fish tank cleaner as a result.
Apparently undeterred, the Incidental Economist blog has published a piece attempting to calculate the cost-effectiveness of ‘flattening the curve’, a catch-all phrase for the various public health preventive approaches being applied to reduce transmission and avoid the collapse of health systems globally as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. While I applaud the authors’ attempt to bring the tools of cost-effectiveness analysis to the current discussion, their analysis is limited, and unfortunately will confirm many people’s worst suspicions about the application of economics to issues in health. Read the full article