Could early quarantine of territories (States, provinces, countries) without infections be suboptimal?

Let's take the case of Argentinian Provinces with no known infections, and to a lesser extent, provinces with just one infection. Due to a national quarantine, these eleven provinces without cases and five provinces with one case are supposed to apply the same quarantine as the touristic and mercantile metropolis of Ciudad de Buenos Aires with 58 known infections.

To put the question into theoretical terms, we want to assign a utility value to starting the quarantine at different times: u(t), the utility function is a mix of health and economic variables. In order to simplify the question and avoid delving into the weighing of health vs economic utilities, assume that we also want to find the t or ts where the peak of simultaneous infections is the lowest, and that the utility will only be used as a tiebreaker between two options with an identical peak simultaneous infection.

Unless I'm missing something, the optimal moment to start a quarantine will be when the amount of known infections is higher than zero. Starting a quarantine with zero known infections will incur economic costs while not reducing peak simultaneous infections. Starting a quarantine with one known infection however, will only slightly lower peak simultaneous infections, but will delay the start of economic inactivity and thus increase the economic endurance of the territory.

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    Welcome to Politics.SE. Unfortunately "too early" is very much a matter of opinion and thus offtopic here. Also utility is hard to compute when "too late" means more lost lives (including medical staff) and it is very hard to compare this to the economical loss of "too early". – Alexei Mar 20 at 14:04
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    @Alexei Whilst I agree the question is off topic as opinion based, putting a monetary value on lives is something routintely done. For example, when anyone decides to make a safety feature mandatory, or change a speed limit. – richardb Mar 20 at 15:08
  • @richardb - you are right and this is directly visible in the life insurance industry. – Alexei Mar 20 at 15:19
  • Hello, thank you for your comments, I agree that, the way the question was worded, it looked like I was asking to weigh economic vs health variables. I added some wording that was lost when transferring the question from another conversation, this specifies that we are only looking to optimize for health variables and using economic variables as a tiebreaker between equal health outcomes. I believe this should allow for a much more concrete answer. Thank you for your attention. – Tomas Zubiri Mar 20 at 15:32
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    As a point of reference, Governor John Martin Poyer imposed a total blockade and quarantine on American Somoa during the Spanish Flu epidemic as soon as he heard reports of worldwide deaths, and as a result was one of the few areas in the world to record zero deaths (there were infections, as only a little island in the Nile River in Brazil reported zero infections in the end). He was awarded the Navy Cross for it, as well. By contrast, nearby German Somoa was the most devastated area by deaths (~30% of men, 22% women, 10% children) and infections (~90%). – zibadawa timmy Mar 20 at 19:33

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