We shut down for way more than 15 days -- and still didn't "slow the spread"

In hindsight, “two weeks to flatten the curve” was either a wild miscalculation or an attempt to soften the blow of bad news. In March 2020, the notion of Americans getting vaccinated against COVID-19 by December seemed spectacularly over-optimistic. “Have everyone quarantine at home until cases go down” was not a long-term answer for a modern society or modern economy, or the psychological, social, or educational needs of Americans.

After two weeks, we hadn’t “slowed the spread.” Two weeks after March 16, the number of U.S. cases had increased from 4,945 to 199,353 — but even that measurement is highly questionable because of the lack of available testing in the early months of the pandemic. We thought 30,000 new cases a day in April was bad — until we started hitting 60,000 new cases a day in July, 100,000 new cases a day in November, and more than 250,000 new cases a day in December.

This was a really contagious virus, and while governors would like to pretend their executive orders and emergency laws made the biggest difference in lowering transmission rates, it looks like population density and size were among the biggest factors — the more people living closer together, the easier the virus could spread.