Had one US state introduced social distancing policies just four days earlier, deaths could be halved, a new study reports.
Had one US state introduced social distancing policies just four days earlier, deaths could be halved, a new study reports.

Critical US mistake doubled death rate

The US currently has the unenviable position of being the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths, however a new study has suggested the country's daily death rate could have been halved if social-distancing measures were implemented sooner.

A new, yet-to-be peer-reviewed study conducted by a team of Chinese and US researchers looked at the efficacy of stay at home orders (SAHO) and face masks in the prevention of the COVID-19 spread.

Researchers looked at the infection and deaths rates in the US and concluded cases declined sharply after lockdown orders were introduced by state governments.

The study showed a key "turning point" in the US' death rate came on March 19 when the state of California implemented a SAHO. California was one of the first US states to introduce such an order. The rate also decreased even more after March 23 when orders were increased to 10 states.

Had more jurisdictions chosen to enact the order, the study estimated the 2000-plus COVID-19 related deaths in California currently recorded could have been lowered to less than 1000. This would have then had a knock-on effect for the death rate through the rest of the country.

Research also stated early removal of these orders would cause a "considerable impact on COVID-19 daily new cases and deaths" to over 3000.


This research was similar to a previous sentiment made by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci. The leading physician and immunologist told CNN in mid-April that government-sanctioned prevention would have "saved lives".

"You can logically say if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives," he said. "No one is going to deny that."

CNN posited health officials wanted to introduce stronger social distancing measures from the third week of February however their suggestions were unheeded by US President Donald Trump.

"Obviously if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, things would have looked a lot different but there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then," he said.

The US has 1.29 million confirmed coronavirus cases and the illness has claimed 76,928 lives, placing its death toll at the highest globally, followed by the UK with 30,615 deaths, Italy with 29,958 and Spain with 26,070.

Health experts locally and internationally have criticised US officials for having "missed the boat" in controlling the disease by waiting too long to halt domestic travel and impose social distancing rules.

Scientists estimated the spread of infections from New York accounted for "60 to 65 per cent of the sequenced viruses" in the US, reported the New York Times.

After analysing thousands of samples from infected people across the US, Yale found a majority of the cases had mutations that could be traced back to the New York outbreak.

"We now have enough data to feel pretty confident that New York was the primary gateway for the rest of the country," said epidemiologist Dr Nathan Grubaugh from the Yale School of Public Health.

Originally published as Critical US mistake doubled death rate