Health Care

Study: Shutdowns prevented 60 milllion coronavirus cases in US

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New research finds that shutdowns and other interventions prevented 60 million coronavirus infections in the United States and that the policies had “large health benefits.”

The study from a team at the University of California, Berkeley published Monday in the journal Nature finds that shelter-in-place orders, business closings, travel restrictions and other responses prevented 530 million infections across the U.S., China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and France.

Because of limited testing, the study states that 62 million of those infections would have been confirmed cases in the six countries, but the real number would have been 530 million. For the U.S., those numbers are 4.8 million confirmed cases prevented, but 60 million actual cases prevented.

The study examines the period from the emergence of the virus in January to April 6. Because the virus grows at an exponential rate when unchecked, the study also finds there would be 465 times more confirmed cases in China without any interventions and 14 times more confirmed cases in the United States.

The eye-popping numbers illustrate that the shutdowns, while controversial and onerous, were effective at slowing the spread of the virus, the study says.

“I don’t think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time,” the lead author of the study, Solomon Hsiang, director of Berkeley’s Global Policy Laboratory, said in a statement. “There have been huge personal costs to staying home and canceling events, but the data show that each day made a profound difference.”

The study used econometric techniques to compare how quickly cases grew before and after various interventions occurred.

It found that stay-at-home orders and business closures had the greatest impact, while travel restrictions and bans on gatherings has “mixed results,” as the Berkeley researchers said in a press release.

Interestingly, “the researchers did not find strong evidence that school closures had an impact in any country,” they added, noting that more research is needed.

The findings of large benefits from shutdowns come as states across the country are now in the process of lifting their orders to varying degrees.

Tags China Coronavirus COVID-19 France Iran Italy South Korea U.S. University of California-Berkeley

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