On Oct 19, the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy in partnership with New Hampshire Journal launched a new podcast focused on New Hampshire politics and policy.

The podcast provides daily insights and analysis on topics directly related to the 2020 election so Granite Staters can have a better understanding of the issues facing the state this fall. Each episode features a free-market perspective on the top issues plus a guest to provide additional insight and context.

The podcast is available online here and on Spotify here. We’ll be up on more apps very soon, so check back here later in the week to see an updated list.

And if you don’t already subscribe to the Bartlett Center’s weekly email newsletter, The Broadside, do that here right now.

The No. 1 reason people move to or stay in New Hampshire is not jobs or low taxes or the environment. It’s family, according to University of New Hampshire Granite State Poll results summarized in the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority’s October Housing Market Report. 

New Hampshire’s strong economy gives our extended family members plenty of options for employment should they decide to stay or return home. Maintaining a vibrant economy is a way of keeping our families connected and close. But the other essential part of this equation is missing — where are they going to live? 

The coronavirus pandemic has made New Hampshire’s acute housing shortage even worse, data from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority (NHFA) show. 

Multiple news organizations have documented the run on houses in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine as people flee cities for the safety of rural and suburban spaces with low infection rates. That surge in purchasers has spiked New Hampshire’s already high demand, driving prices to record levels. 

New Hampshire’s median home price reached a new peak of $335,000 in August, a 14% increase since last August, NHFA tracking shows. Sales are down 6% since January. Those numbers “reflect extremely low inventory levels, not a lack of demand,” the NHFA concludes.

“September 2020 listings in total have dropped 27% when compared to September 2019. As prices continue to rise, listings under $300,000 become scarcer; the number of homes below this price have decreased 37% from last year,” the authority’s October report details.

In September, there was less than a month’s supply of homes priced under $300,000 in the entire state. 

To put it another way, your child who wants to move home from Boston or Raleigh or Silicon Valley might have to keep that big-city salary just to afford a house in New Hampshire. 

The housing shortage is tighter this fall even though building permits for single-family homes rose by 24% from January through August. New Hampshire’s housing stock is so low that it will be years before we come close to building enough homes to satisfy demand. 

For rentals, the picture is even worse. Building permits for multi-family homes fell by 61% from January through August. As demand has surged, communities have clamped down on new apartment construction (or builders have given up even applying). 

For example, Bedford’s planning board in September rejected a proposal to build 200 market-rate luxury apartments in the town’s commercial zone on South River Road. Though the apartments would have brought more tax revenue and less traffic than a commercial development previously approved for the same lot, and would have made the town a profit after school and public safety costs were deducted, the board rejected it. Board members didn’t want more apartments, even though the data showed that apartments would have left the town financially better off than commercial development.  

Because local regulators continue to artificially restrict the supply of rental housing, rents keep rising. The median monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire rose 4.9% in the past year, to $1,413, NHFA data show. The state’s rental vacancy rate has risen a bit but remains below 2%. 

All of this means that if your children and parents want to move back to town, they will struggle to find a home. 

The NHFA’s report shows that almost three-fourths (73%) of New Hampshire home buyers are Granite Staters moving to another home within the state. High prices inflated by a severe shortage of new construction do not primarily hurt out-of-staters who want to move here for jobs. They primarily hurt Granite Staters. 

They also hurt New Hampshire employers. Fidelity and Sig Sauer this week announced expansions that would create more than 700 new jobs in the state. The shortage of housing in Southern New Hampshire will make it harder for those companies to fill those positions.  

New Hampshire’s families, workers and employers are in desperate need of new home construction, both owner-occupied and rentals. The situation has been worsening for years. At what point do all three go to their local boards and demand that they get out of the way and let builders build?

Massachusetts’ June 1 ban on the sale of flavored cigarettes is driving higher sales, and higher tax revenue, in New Hampshire, state and retailer data show. 

In Massachusetts, cigarette tax stamp sales fell vs. the same month in 2019 by 17.2% in June, 23.7% in July and 29.9% in August, the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association (NECSEMA) announced this week. 

In New Hampshire, cigarette tax stamp sales rose vs. the same month in 2019 by 55.8% in June, 27.3% in July and 17.2% in August, the association reported.

That’s a tax revenue gain of $16.48 million for New Hampshire and a loss of $31.88 million for Massachusetts. 

Those figures are for cigarette sales only and do not include other tobacco products or electronic cigarettes. 

Looking at all tobacco tax revenue, New Hampshire has seen large gains since the flavored cigarette ban took effect. 

Tobacco tax revenue in May was identical to the year before. Then in June it shot up by 43.3% over the prior year. Compared to the same month the year before, tobacco tax revenue was up by 12.1% in July,18.6% in August and a tremendous 56.8% in September. 

From June through September, New Hampshire tobacco tax revenue was up by $22.2 million over the same four months in 2019. The state’s new tax on electronic cigarettes does not account for this increase. The state collected a little more than $300,000 a month in e-cigarette taxes from June through September. 

State Department of Revenue Administration staff attribute significant tobacco tax spikes in March and April (24.8% and 30.6%, respectively) to smokers stocking up for the coronavirus lockdowns this spring. They believe the surge starting in June is driven by the Massachusetts ban.

“We think it has to be related to the menthol ban in Massachusetts, although we don’t have the data to affirmatively prove that,” Carollynn Lear, assistant commissioner of revenue, said.

The state Department of Revenue Administration doesn’t break down cigarette tax stamp revenue by type of cigarette. But convenience stores do, and their data tell the story. 

Among NECSEMA members, total cigarette sales in Massachusetts were down 24% in August but up 65% in New Hampshire and 17% in Rhode Island, the association reported this week. But flavored cigarette sales were up 91% in New Hampshire and 40% in Rhode Island in August. Flavored smokeless tobacco sales were up 175% in New Hampshire and 54% in Rhode Island in August, NECSEMA reported.

Predictably, the ban increased both cross-border sales and in-state crime. Convenience store owners in Boston said this week that street sales of now-illegal flavored cigarettes have become a nuisance.

Free-market organizations were not the only ones to predict that this would happen. Massachusetts officials predicted it too. 

The Massachusetts Multi-Agency Illegal Tobacco Task Force noted in its 2020 annual report, published in February, that it was considering the need for increased enforcement this year because “the Task Force expects there will be an increase in smuggling activity and black market sales” after the flavored tobacco ban begins. 

Exactly as expected, Massachusetts’ ban has ended the legal sale, but not the consumption, of flavored tobacco products in the state. As tobacco retailers and the state’s own Illegal Tobacco Task Force predicted, the ban has sent legal sales over the border and increased the criminal, black-market sale of flavored tobacco products in Massachusetts. 

New Hampshire recorded only seven COVID-19 deaths in September, a 96% decline from May’s total of 176, and a 59% from August, state data show.

It was the third month in a row that deaths have fallen by more than 50%.

For the first time since March, when the state recorded three COVID-19 fatalities, deaths for the month stayed in the single digits. All deaths in September were of people over age 60.

New hospitalizations were almost flat, going from 21 in August to 24 in September. That is a 19% increase from month to month but represents an 81% decline since June’s peak of 121. 

Positive test results rose from 692 in August to 991 in September, a 43% increase that is largely an artifact of increased testing. Without expanded testing, almost all of those infections likely would have gone undetected.

Excluding tests done at the University of New Hampshire, the state tested an average of 3,8242 people per day in September, a 27% increase from August. 

But when UNH tests are included for the last week of September, the daily average jumps to 7,750, a roughly 156% increase from August.

Getting a precise daily average is challenging because the state only began including UNH’s numbers in its daily totals on Sept. 23. UNH reports that it has given 128,230 tests since July 29. Most of those came since late August when students returned to school, but the daily results are not listed with the state’s daily results to allow for precise calculation.

To illustrate the scale of UNH’s testing, the state recorded 90,208 tests in August and 115,280 in September, according to its published data. UNH’s 128,230 tests cover just three campuses, Durham, Manchester and UNH Law in Concord.

The bottom line is that through September the state has continued to have a very small number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and a pronounced drop in deaths despite the reopening of schools, colleges and businesses. The increase in positive test results has picked up some small clusters of cases, most notably at UNH, but has been driven largely by the substantial increase in testing.

Below is the state’s own chart tracking tests and positives, showing the rise in tests and the drop in the percent positive rate.

 

In May, some politicians and activists warned that reopening the state’s economy would be a public health disaster. Instead, it’s been an economic savior. 

New Hampshire employment fell by more than 151,000 from March to April as the economic shutdown tanked the economy, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of this week, the state has recovered approximately 61% of those lost jobs (more than 93,000). 

An estimated 689,750 Granite Staters were employed in August, the state Department of Employment Security reported this week. That’s an additional 14,270 people from the month before.   

The state’s unemployment rate fell to 6.5%, down from 8% in July. It remains below the national rate of 8.4%.

As this economic restoration has taken place, the state’s coronavirus infections have plummeted. The state recorded 692 new coronavirus infections in August, down from its monthly high of 2,505 in May.

New hospitalizations fell from a peak of 213 in April to 21 in August. Deaths fell from a peak of 176 in May to 17 in August.

As the Josiah Bartlett Center pointed out in our reopening guidelines published in April, the state would do best to apply the minimum intervention necessary and to focus on behaviors. Encouraging individuals to practice safe behaviors, such as mask wearing, would slow the spread of the disease while letting the economy open back up.

The state shifted from a prescriptive lockdown in April to more of a behavior-focused guidance model in May and June. As a result, the economy has undergone a recovery while reducing the spread of the virus.

 

There was big coronavirus news for New Hampshire this week, and most of the media missed it. 

At his Thursday press conference, Gov. Chris Sununu displayed a graphic (pictured below) showing that the average number of coronavirus tests per day has more than doubled since mid-August. 

Fewer than 3,000 people per day, on average, were being tested in the middle of last month. This month the daily average has hovered around 7,000, peaking at nearly 8,000 last week before falling this week. 

What some last week portrayed as a worrisome increase in infections is largely explained by expanded testing, mostly at colleges. 

The University of New Hampshire has been testing students twice a week since the start of school in late August, but only the positive test results had been reported in the state’s official numbers. 

Without those thousand of negative test results, the state’s reported numbers appeared to show an increase in the positive test rate. 

In fact, the positive rate has been falling. Instead of ticking up to around 1.5%, it has dropped to around 0.5%. 

State epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said Thursday that the increase in positive tests does not represent a surge or an acceleration in the infection rate.  

“We believe some of the increases we are seeing to a large part is because of the increased testing we are seeing,” Chan said. “We are seeing the numbers of people with COVID-19 go up in the younger age groups, and that is directly attributable to the testing strategies that are out there at colleges and universities.”

There have been a few small clusters, two at UNH, but they’ve been isolated. Some infections might not have happened without colleges reopening, but the reopenings have not caused a case surge. 

As of mid-September, the reopening of businesses and schools has not caused worrisome levels of community transmission or triggered any indicator that would lead to a reversal of the state’s reopening plans. 

Media coverage of the state coronavirus briefings continues to focus on daily and total numbers, often missing the larger context. The best news coverage of Thursday’s news came from Patch’s Tony Schinella, who understood the story. 

We would also point out that on Tuesday the Josiah Bartlett Center was the first to note the signfiicant increase in testing in September. We pointed out that some of the rise in infections could be attributed to the additional testing. The state would not include UNH numbers for two more days, so we caught only the uptick in the state’s reported numbers. 

UNH has conducted more than 86,000 tests, Dr. Chan said on Thursday. Its daily average from Sept. 2-Sept. 8 was 3,300. (UNH keeps its own COVID dashboard.) In September, the state has averaged 3,575 tests per day, excluding the UNH tests. 

As these tests have uncovered new infections, the state’s COVID-19 hospitalization rate has fallen from 10% at the end of August to 9% just over two weeks later. As of Thursday, the state has recorded only six COVID-19 deaths this month. It recorded 17 in August, down from 44 in July. 

As of September 17, there are only eight current hospitalizations for COVID-19 in New Hampshire. No county has even 90 known active cases, and four counties (Cheshire, Coos, Grafton and Sullivan) have fewer than 10. Only three municipalities have more than 20 known active cases: Durham (23), Nashua (23) and Manchester (32). 

So halfway into September, the news continues to be positive. Increased testing has uncovered some new infections, including several small clusters, but there is no surge. Hospitalizations and deaths continue to trend downward. 

Energy policy is often described in moral terms, with “green energy” representing the forces of good and fossil fuels representing the forces of darkness. But really it’s about math. California politicians have spent decades fighting a losing battle against math. In August, math finally won. 

The rolling blackouts that cut off power during an August heat wave were the entirely predictable — and often predicted — result of a series of energy policy decisions designed to impose politicians’ energy preferences on a market that wasn’t ready for them. 

Renewable energy advocates were quick to claim that green energy policy wasn’t to blame because wind and solar power did not fail. But that’s not accurate. 

The first outages in August were caused in the evening when the state needed to switch from solar to natural gas. One 470 megawatt gas plant tripped offline and 1,000 megawatts of wind power were lost when winds died down, the state’s electricity grid operator reported. 

“All available resources are needed to meet the growing demand,” the California Independent System Operator explained when describing the situation. 

There’s a reason for that — a political one. 

California energy policy has created an artificial shortage of reliable base load energy. 

And those same policies are being pursued by activists in New Hampshire and throughout New England. 

Since at least the late 1990s, California has sought to force the energy market away from fossil fuels and toward renewables. The policy has “worked,” if its stated goal is the only metric. California set a goal to have a third of its electricity generated by renewable sources by 2020, and it reached that goal in 2018. 

But the cost was huge. The state didn’t just encourage electricity producers to hit the politicians’ arbitrarily chosen target. It rigged the market to prevent producers from providing consumers the most reliable energy at the cheapest price. 

As early as 2002, the U.S. Energy Information Agency pointed out that California had not built enough power plants. “Investment in new power generation capacity has not kept pace with the increasing demand for electricity,” concluded an EIA report on the causes of California’s energy crisis. “California’s generation capability decreased 2 percent from 1990 through 1999, while retail sales increased by 11 percent. Further, no new generation capacity has been constructed in California for over a decade.”

California politicians made it extremely hard to build anything but renewable power generation facilities. As wholesale electricity prices rose, the state capped retail prices and even, amazingly, prohibited utility companies from signing long-term contracts for the purchase of electricity. 

The cumulative effect of these and other green energy policies, including net metering, was to create an unnecessarily limited supply of extremely expensive energy. 

California utilities have been left with no choice but to buy base load power on the spot market from out-of-state providers. Instead of having an abundance of reliable natural gas plants in-state, California relies on out-of-state generators whose transmission lines run for hundreds of miles. 

California has among the nation’s highest electricity prices (close to those in New England), despite having huge fossil fuel reserves, because politicians wouldn’t let the market work. An economist who recently moved to California wrote that his monthly electricity bill of $1,000 would be just $250 in neighboring Texas. 

By 2020, the state was meeting its renewable energy targets and setting even more ambitious ones. But the supply of reliable base load power that could be tapped when the sun wasn’t shining and the wind wasn’t blowing had become dangerously low. 

When a regional heat wave spiked demand thought the West and fewer than 1,500 mw of power went offline one evening, suddenly there wasn’t enough available electricity to meet the state’s needs. 

This can happen in New Hampshire, which already has high electricity rates, some market-distorting energy policies, and vocal activists who insist that math can be ignored if the state’s motives are pure enough. 

The lesson from California is not that states shouldn’t find ways to move toward more renewable energy. It’s that deliberately preventing the market from working has the result of… preventing the market from working. When the market doesn’t work, supply doesn’t rise to meet demand. In energy markets, that can lead to rolling blackouts. 

ISO New England has warned about this possibility for years. New Hampshire lawmakers ignore the warnings at their — and our — peril. 

The weekend has arrived when Americans play for three days while politicians give speeches and issue press releases recognizing the economic contributions of the American labor movement. 

Labor’s contributions are worth recognition. But have any politicians ever acknowledged that laboring in isolation produces nothing beyond basic subsistence? For labor to generate human progress, it has to be mixed with innovation. Yet we have no holiday for the innovators.

Our prehistoric ancestors labored for thousands of years with no economic advancement. The discovery of agriculture produced some wealth, but humans then labored on farms for millennia with only periodic and temporary spurts of economic growth. Technological innovations would sometimes lead to bursts of productivity that would improve living conditions, but those would fade relatively quickly. 

Not until the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution did humans suddenly begin to generate huge and sustained gains in living standards. This chart from Our World In Data shows how everything suddenly changed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. 

Scholars debate what caused this explosion of economic progress. But economist Deirdre McCloskey makes a compelling case that it was a change in human thought that gave birth to the miracle of modern growth. 

A change in how people honored markets and innovation caused the Industrial Revolution, and then the modern world. The old conventional wisdom, by contrast, has no place for attitudes about trade and innovation, and no place for liberal thought. The old materialist story says that the Industrial Revolution came from material causes, from investment or theft, from higher saving rates or from imperialism. You’ve heard it: “Europe is rich because of its empires”; “The United States was built on the backs of slaves”; “China is getting rich because of trade.”

But what if the Industrial Revolution was sparked instead by changes in the way people thought, and especially by how they thought about each other?

She goes on…

Economists and historians are starting to realize that it took much, much more than theft or capital accumulation to ignite the Industrial Revolution—it took a big shift in how Westerners thought about commerce and innovation. People had to start liking “creative destruction,” the new idea that replaces the old. It’s like music. A new band gets a new idea in rock music, and replaces the old if enough people freely adopt the new. If the old music is thought to be worse, it is “destroyed” by the creativity. In the same way, electric lights “destroyed” kerosene lamps, and computers “destroyed” typewriters. To our good.

McCloskey has documented how the Enlightenment changed the way people think about work, creativity, invention, innovation, commerce and markets. Work and self-sufficiency were elevated in status, but so too were trade and commerce, finance and innovation. 

In short, market capitalism was slowly recognized as a way for ordinary individuals to improve their station in life. And that changed humanity, unleashing an unprecedented era of sustained economic and cultural progress.

People began to realize that there were ways to advance from one social rank to the next, and those ways involved not working harder, but working smarter. 

Enlightened American gentlemen in the late 18th century did not content themselves with continuing to work as their fathers had. They became obsessed with experimenting, tinkering and inventing. This was not confined to geniuses like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. 

George Washington experimented with new agricultural methods, invented a new type of threshing barn, and helped develop the American Foxhound. 

The spirit of the age sparked a wildfire of imagination, leading to inventions from ordinary people who sought to improve their own lives and the lives of others.

In 1764, an illiterate weaver and carpenter named James Hargraves invented the Spinning Jenny, helping to spark the Industrial Revolution. He was a nobody, but he’s the one who turned his town into a boomtown. 

Pennsylvania farmer Jacob Yoder invented the flat-bottomed boat in 1782. About 1785, uneducated Delaware businessman Oliver Evans invented the automatic flour mill.

The examples go on and on. A common theme is that the people who created the devices that allowed humanity to lift itself up from subsistence farming tended to be lowly tinkerers with little or no social status.  

These tinkerers, inventors and innovators created the factories and machines that created the labor movement, which Americans are supposed to celebrate this weekend. Yet we have no holiday for the innovators. Their contributions are mostly forgotten, their achievements taken for granted. 

Our culture assumes that prosperity and progress are humanity’s baseline. We have grown up in an advanced civilization with plentiful food, clothing and shelter, and with luxury goods so abundant that even people we consider poor have flat-screen TVs, smartphones and automobiles. We assume this is the way things always have been.

It was not. This is a recent human creation. Yes, labor made the factories, the railroads, the highways possible. But the innovators gave labor the tools with which they built our modern world. If we want to preserve the progress we’ve made, we should recognize and celebrate the innovators too. 

Innovation, not labor, was the foundation of the Industrial Revolution. Labor, a critical component, came after. And it came because industrial life promised greater economic progress than life on the old family farm.

We can stimulate more progress by encouraging more innovation. If we forget its foundational contribution, we will only make additional progress harder. 

A Croydon couple on Wednesday filed a civil rights lawsuit against the state, challenging a law that forbids local school districts from paying tuition to religious schools.

In 2017, New Hampshire passed a law that allows school districts that don’t offer education at certain grade levels to send students to private schools for those grades. So if a district doesn’t have a middle school, it can tuition students to private middle schools. Except, the law specifically excludes religious schools.  

Dennis and Catherine Griffin raise their 12-year-old grandson, Clayton, in Croydon, which does not have a middle school. Clayton attends Mount Royal Academy, a Catholic school. If Clayton attended any of the private, non-religious middle schools in the area, his tuition would be paid by the school district. But because his family chose a Catholic school, the district cannot pay his tuition. 

The Griffins’ lawsuit says this prohibition is unconstitutional religious discrimination. 

The exclusion “is unconstitutional on its face,” the complaint says, because it amounts to “denying tuition payments to tuition-eligible students and their families on the sole basis that an otherwise eligible private school is sectarian.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June in Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue that states cannot exclude religious schools from public education programs just because the schools are religious.  

“In light of Espinoza, states like New Hampshire cannot deny tuition to families who live in choice towns and who choose to send their children to religious schools,” said Tim Keller, senior at the Institute for Justice, which is representing the Griffins. “The Supreme Court could not have been clearer when it said that while ‘[a] State need not subsidize private education[, ] once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.’”

The Griffins hope the courts will recognize the state law as unconstitutional under Espinoza and allow the district to pay Clayton’s tuition. 

“We’ve chosen what we believe is the best school for our grandson,” Dennis Griffin said in a statement released by the Institute for Justice. “It’s not fair that we can’t receive the same support that other families in the town receive just because his school is religious. We hope that New Hampshire courts will follow the direction of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed a similar tuition bill in 2016, saying it was “unconstitutional” because it didn’t prohibit money from going to religious schools. In Espinoza, the Supreme Court reached precisely the opposite conclusion.

New Hampshire’s tax credit scholarship program, which lets businesses and individuals take business tax credits for donations made to certain approved scholarship programs, includes religious schools. 

The language prohibiting tuition money from going to “sectarian schools” was taken from a provision in New Hampshire’s constitution that prohibits tax money from going to such schools. That 1877 constitutional amendment, known as a Blaine amendment, was one of many passed nationwide in a wave of anti-Catholic fear after the Civil War. 

In Espinoza, the Supreme Court effectively nullified these amendments, holding that they amounted to unconstitutional religious discrimination. 

NOTE: This post, originally published Aug. 28, was updated on Aug. 31 to add the final numbers for the month. 

 

August has recorded New Hampshire’s lowest numbers of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths since May. The dramatic, summer-long decline in all three metrics occurred as the state reopened its economy. But it has been hard to see by looking only at the daily reporting.

Media reports focused on daily snapshots or cumulative totals have masked the decline. Looking at the monthly trends shows just how sharply and quickly the state’s numbers have fallen.

As students return to school and restaurants expand indoor seating, New Hampshire has fewer than 1,000 infections for the month, fewer than two dozen hospitalizations, and fewer than 20 deaths. August saw large drops in all three categories, but especially in hospitalizations and deaths, which both fell by 90% since their peaks in April and May, respectively.

The state does not break down its numbers by month, so the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy created month-by-month graphs to see how infections, hospitalizations and deaths were trending over the summer. 

We found that new infections peaked in May with 2,505. New hospitalizations peaked in April, with 213. New deaths peaked in May, with 176. 

Since May, the state has experienced a substantial decline in all three metrics. 

By the end of August, New Hampshire experienced a 72% reduction in infections and a 90% reduction in both hospitalizations and deaths since their peaks in April and May.

 

The drop since July has also been sharp. The state had 128 new hospitalizations in July. It recorded only 21 new hospitalizations in August. The state had 44 deaths in July. It has recorded only 17 deaths in August. The drop in infections was much smaller. They fell from 801 in July to 692 in August. In percentage terms, infections fell by 14%, hospitalizations by 84% and deaths by 61% from July-August.

The Sununu administration has acted cautiously by lifting economic restrictions in a slow and methodical manner, which may have helped to slow the spread of the virus during the reopening period.

The numbers trend shows that no additional restrictions are warranted at this time and that remaining restrictions should be reconsidered. 

It’s worth noting that as the governor began lifting economic constraints in May, many predicted a huge summer surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Instead, the opposite happened. As the economy reopened, infections, hospitalizations and deaths all fell. 

As we pointed out last week, the state still has not experienced a single outbreak at a day care center, restaurant or shopping mall. As of August 31, only six people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state. 

That is not to say that the virus has disappeared or is not a concern for some people. Just over one fifth (21%) of infections have been traced to community transmission, according to the state, showing that there is some risk of catching it out in public.

It’s possible that Motorcycle Week changes the data or that cold weather brings a resurgence in infections and fatalities. But a realistic look at the data currently available shows cause for optimism and additional reopening measures, not pessimism and further restraints on economic and personal activity.