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US Shelter-in-Place Orders Prevented Up to 370,000 Coronavirus Deaths, Study Says

20:26  10 july  2020
20:26  10 july  2020 Source:   usnews.com

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Two months of lockdowns this spring saved as many as 370,000 lives in the U.S., according to new estimates from researchers at the University of Iowa.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the first statewide shelter-in-place order on March 19, and by early April, 42 states and the District of Columbia were similarly locked down. While coronavirus infections continued to rise, research shows social distancing measures curbed the growth of new cases within days. The new study, published in the journal Health Affairs, indicates the stay-at-home orders also corresponded with a sharp decline in COVID-19 mortality growth rates that became more pronounced as time went on.

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In the first week after a shelter-in-place order was enacted, the average daily growth rate in COVID-19 mortality was 20.5%, according to the analysis, which is based on data from 22 states between March 21 and May 15. In the fourth week after enactment, the growth rate fell by an average of 2.9 percentage points, while after the sixth week, the rate fell by an average of 6.1 percentage points.

While coronavirus deaths never fully subsided, slowing the growth rate corresponded with 250,000 to 370,000 deaths potentially averted, the study found.

The findings indicate shelter-in-place orders "played an important role in decelerating the growth curve for COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations," said study authors George Wehby and Wei Lyu of the University of Iowa's Department of Health Management. "Had this excess burden not been averted, mortality from other conditions might have also increased due to overcrowded hospitals."

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They also tracked average daily hospitalizations for 19 states, which saw a decline in the growth rate beginning three weeks after enactment. After the sixth week, the hospitalization growth rate fell by up to 8.4 percentage points, averting somewhere between 750,000 and 840,000 hospitalizations in those states.

"The timing of effects are largely consistent with hospitalizations lagging cases, and deaths lagging hospitalizations," study authors said.

The median time between when someone is exposed to the coronavirus and when they begin showing symptoms is four to five days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though research has increasingly pointed to asymptomatic spread as a major driver of new infections. Among patients who fall seriously ill, it can take anywhere from days to weeks to be hospitalized, admitted to intensive care and die.

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"The estimates imply that the inpatient care burden on hospitals and medical staff would have been much larger without" shelter-in-place orders, researchers said.

The study has some limitations: Researchers didn't have demographics or health information for patients who were hospitalized or died, making it difficult to assess how shelter-in-place orders affect different communities. The analysis also includes only confirmed hospitalizations and deaths, although "there is emerging evidence of thousands of 'excess' deaths during this period with pneumonia and influenza-like symptoms that were not tested or confirmed for COVID-19."

The findings come as coronavirus cases climb in the U.S., surpassing 3 million earlier this week, and deaths surge in hot spots like Arizona, Texas and Florida. As of Friday morning, more than 133,000 people had died of COVID-19 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

Copyright 2020 U.S. News & World Report

Some Americans refuse to mask up. Rules, fines and free masks will change that, experts say. .
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This is interesting!