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The national mobilization against the coronavirus is now in full swing. Schools and workplaces nationwide have shuttered. The federal government has recommended that people not gather in groups of 10 or more. Social distancing and self-isolation are now becoming part of the fabric of daily American life.

This has all sparked a serious question among many people: Are we overreacting? It’s not just a question being asked by partiers and bar-goers — it has also been asked in the New York Times. A widely circulated article by Stanford’s John Ioannidis suggests that the stepped-up US response is a “fiasco in the making” that’s being made without enough data.

To someone who hasn’t been following the pandemic’s spread closely, the drastic measures indeed might seem like an overreaction. After all, around 35,000 cases and 500 deaths — as of March 22 — in a country of 330 million may not seem that bad. Is it really worth shutting down the economy, a measure that will of course have horrific costs of its own, for such a small toll?

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