First, the strategy’s efficacy will not suddenly improve because a state government goes “whack-a-mole” on certain counties or zip codes whose case numbers are spiking. Lockdowns have had a questionable effect in mitigating the spread of the virus (California, a state with the harshest restrictions, now faces a caseload of over 1 million). Epidemiologist Adam Kucharski told Wired, “Targeted measures can end up chasing the outbreak wider and wider, to the point where restrictions are equivalent to a broader blanket policy.” Moreover, in a preprint paper from August, researchers cited the “heterogeneity” of inconsistent pandemic control policies as inefficient. “Where certain venues see substantial increases in attendance while others close, suggests that closure can cause individuals to find an open venue, even if that requires longer-distance travel,” the paper says.

Further, the “whack-a-mole” lockdown strategy can be capricious and invite confusion. A local county is not a light switch that governors can flicker on and off. Small business owners who survived the first deluge of lockdowns are barely staying afloat as it is. Slapping on more restrictions based on an infection rate standard set by public health officials spells countless, costly logistical problems. Closing down schools on short notice, as was the case in New York City before a partial reversal, is costly for students, first and foremost, and working parents, who must adjust to new schedules.