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Epidemiologists Vs Economists In The Battle Over Covid-19 (The Intellectualist)


Epidemiologists Vs Economists In The Battle Over Covid-19 – By Matty-Sways (The Intellectualist) / Nov 17 2020

The challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic have made epidemiologists and economist square off.

The strong encouragement to put stay at home restrictions in place and other suggests that had a large negative effect on the US economy and its population have made some economists even questioned whether epidemiologists were intellectually equipped for the trial.

“How smart are they?

What are their average gre scores?” wondered Tyler Cowen of George Mason University in April.

Back in March there was a need for models that predicted the possible course of covid-19. Epidemiologists and Economist began to develop them using different kinds of models. In March researchers at Imperial College London used a model to calculate the potential death toll of the virus, assuming that people and governments took no measures to stop its spread. The analysis concluded that perhaps 500,000 Britons and 2.2m Americans would die in such circumstances (roughly 10x amount of deaths so far). Economists argued that the model’s assumptions were unrealistic. In a newly published essay in the Journal of Economic Perspectives Eleanor Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University, says economists misunderstood the aim of the model, which was to set out a worst-case scenario as a baseline against which to estimate the effects of potential policy interventions.

Given that building models is a favorite pastime of economists, the perception that epidemiologists’ efforts were not good enough led many to dig into the data themselves. This too proved problematic, writes Ms Murray. However, modeling a virus is different than economic predictions. There are certain ambiguities when dealing with a novel pathogen like the virus which causes covid-19 that economists may not have appreciated.

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