I've been discussing this with my friend who's wife is Swedish and living in Sweden. Because those two are fairly certain that Sweden's gonna have possibly the worst death rate on the planet, resulting in massive damage to their economy, I've taken the counter argument. That's what I do. My counter argument will miss something, I'm sure. I can't imaging taking any stance on COVID-19 that's bullet proof, there's simply so little we know.
So, here's my counter argument. First, some presumptions, all of which can be refuted. I make them anyway because they're not trivially rejectable and may be driving the thinking of those people we don't understand...
We're not going to have a vaccine or highly effective treatment for 18 months. I don't think there's a lot of argument about this. We might discover some therapies that significantly reduce mortality, but that hasn't happened yet. Hydroxychloroquine looks to be a bust. One NYC hospital system now reports that 88% of the COVID patients put on ventilators eventually died. I have no data regarding less intensive care, such as nasal O2, or other treatments. Still, absent cures and with such horrific ventilator success, there's an argument to be made that the health care system isn't actually improving the numbers by much.
We don't have (and aren't likely to get) any numbers showing relative outcomes for those who seek hospitalization vs those who tough it out at home and possibly succumb there. I've seen articles claiming that symptomatic people, uncertain they've got the virus, fear getting it if they seek hospitalization. They also fear financial ruin. We certainly aren't hospitalizing everyone who might benefit.
Two antibody studies in California suggest that the total infected population there is far higher than commonly estimated. If that's even 1/10th true, COVID-19 mortality ratios are far lower than currently reported.
If the total infected population is far higher than currently estimated, the onset of herd immunity will happen much sooner.
Economic damage starts the moment you curtail activity. There's a level of curtailment you can't avoid, simply because most people will alter their behavior in response to falling ill, or witnessing others do so. The damage sustained by curtailing economic activity is neither linear nor immediately reversible. Reducing economic activity by 25% for four months might be worse than reducing it by 5% for 20. And we're really not going to get economic activity back to normal until there's a vaccine or long lasting herd immunity.
From those suppositions, I can make the argument that doing nothing but informing people of the dangers of socializing will produce an ultimate outcome that's comparable or better than the most draconian suppression measures. There no cure on the immediate horizon. Hospitals are not has helpful as we think. Burdening them is a potential waste of resources that could be used to treat other people, with better results. COVID-19 is not as deadly as the current numbers suggest, because far more people have already had it. Herd immunity will arrive sooner than anticipated as a result.
Let's come back in two years and revisit this argument.