New research indicates if the U.S. had acted faster with social distancing policies, thousands of COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented.
The first U.S. cases were reported at the end of January but the government didn’t urge people to avoid large groups until mid-March.
Researchers from Columbia University found that if social distancing started two weeks earlier, 84% of deaths and 82% of cases could have been averted.
Epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman is the leader of the team that made the findings.
He explained what could have happened if those measures had been in place just one week sooner.
“Our estimates are that a majority of deaths would have been prevented,” Shaman said. “Just over 50% of them would have been reduced for the total numbers that we see by May 3, if we had acted just a week earlier.”
The team drew those conclusions by looking at transmission rates from mid-March through the beginning of May.
Researchers say their study underscores the importance of early intervention.
They say as states re-open, local leaders should respond quickly if they detect growth in new cases.
The Columbia findings have not been reviewed by other experts for accuracy.