One Week Could Have Made Big Difference in Deaths

Study suggests 36K fewer people would have died in US if guidelines went into effect earlier
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2020 9:50 AM CDT
Slightly Earlier Shutdown Would Have Saved 36K Lives
A pedestrian wearing a protective mask walks on April 27, 2020, in Manhattan.   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The number of COVID-19 deaths in the US is nearing 100,000, but a new study suggests the figure would be dramatically lower if widespread social-distancing measures went into effect just one week earlier than they did, reports the New York Times. The study out of Columbia University estimates that 36,000 fewer people would have died through early May if those measures began on March 8. If they began on March 1, the figure jumps to 54,000. Scientists came up with the estimates using models that took into account how transmission of the virus slowed once the guidelines did go into effect. "It's a big, big difference," says Columbia epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman. "That small moment in time, catching it in that growth phase, is incredibly critical in reducing the number of deaths."

The story points out President Trump's reluctance to recommend coronavirus shutdown measures, calling attention to this tweet on March 9: "Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on," he wrote about how the US deals with the flu. The White House, though, is pushing back against the notion that Trump is at fault, reports the Washington Post. "What would have saved lives is if China had been transparent and the World Health Organization had fulfilled its mission," said a spokesperson. "What did save American lives is the bold leadership of President Trump," he added, referencing Trump's decision to restrict travel from China in January and from Europe on March 13. (In Illinois, a state lawmaker refused to wear a mask and was escorted from the legislative chamber.)

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