Study: 36K lives could have been saved if social distancing measures were implemented a week earlier

Posted at 11:34 AM, May 22, 2020

NEW YORK — A new study from Columbia University estimates that 36,000 American lives could have been saved and 700,000 COVID-19 infections been avoided had governments instituted social distancing measures just one week earlier.

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency due to COVID-19 on March 13. Two days later, on March 15, the CDC recommended that there be no gatherings of 50 or more people in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.

However, the Columbia study indicates that had those measures been implemented a week earlier, on March 8, thousands of lives would have been saved.

"Our estimates are that a majority of deaths would have been prevented, just over 50% of them would have been reduced if we had acted just a week earlier," said researcher and epidemiologist Dr. Jeffrey Shaman.

Shaman determined that not only would the measures have prevented death, but there would have been at least 700,000 fewer infections had Americans been told to socially distance on March 8.

The study says that this would have saved more than 17,000 lives in the New York area alone and reduced cases in the city almost 210,000,

"This study shows the power of physical distancing," Shaman said.

Trump has hit back at the study during a visit to Detroit Thursday.

"I was so early, I was earlier than anyone thought," he said. "I put a ban on people coming in from China, and everyone fought me on that. Columbia is an institution that is very liberal; I think it's a political hit job if you want to know the truth."

The study foresees a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and deaths and suggests quick action to reimpose restrictions in the hopes that there won't be a repeat of past mistakes.

This story was originally published by Marvin Scott on WPIX in New York City.