Were COVID-19 lockdowns worth the cost?

Texas, according to lockdown supporters, did pretty much everything wrong: It closed businesses too late, allowed them to reopen too soon, and failed to develop testing and tracing capacity enough to make a real difference. But what about California, which led the nation in ordering businesses to close and telling people to stay home and has been only gradually lifting those restrictions? Newly confirmed cases are also rising dramatically there, from 2,108 on June 15 to 7,149 on June 23—a more-than-threefold increase similar to what Texas saw during the same period, although that number had dropped to 4,810 as of June 27.

California began allowing dine-in restaurants to reopen on May 8. The state has not imposed a hard cap on occupancy, focusing instead on physical distancing requirements. Some local governments are being more cautious. In San Francisco, for example, restaurants were allowed to reopen on June 15, but only for outdoor dining. The state allowed bars, wineries, breweries, hotels, bowling alleys, and miniature golf courses to start reopening on June 12 in counties that met specified epidemiological targets.

Can that last decision be blamed for the recent surge in cases? It seems unlikely, given how gradually these businesses are actually reopening. In any case, it is hard to put much stock in the argument that Texas has been exceptionally reckless when even a super-cautious state like California is seeing similar increases in newly identified infections.