If social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders went into place just one week earlier, researchers say as many as 36,000 lives could have been saved from the coronavirus.
According to new estimates from disease modelers at Columbia University, if the U.S. shutdowns began two weeks earlier, on March 1, about 83% of the nation’s deaths could have been avoided.
“It’s a big, big difference,” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia and the leader of the research team told The New York Times. “That small moment in time, catching it in that growth phase, is incredibly critical in reducing the number of deaths.”
The findings are based on infectious-disease modeling that estimate how reduced contact between people starting in mid-March slowed the transmission of COVID-19.
Shaman discussed the results with CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday night. He said more than half of the deaths in New York City, could have been saved by May 3 if mitigation measures were put in place quicker.
“Unfortunately when you have a new novel virus, almost the entire population of the world is susceptible to it,” he told Lemon. “They’re all capable of being infected by it, and as it moves into the community, it doubles over a period of time. Each period of time it will accelerate up one, two, four, eight, and so on number of cases. The consequence of this is, if you don’t recognize the problem early, and if you don’t jump on it, it’s going to really come down on you harder than it would otherwise. And just a very small backtracking of our social distancing measures, so if we had taken them, in fact, just one week earlier, has a very dramatic effect in reducing the number of cases and deaths that we would have seen thus far.”
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