Coronavirus: US could have saved nearly 56,000 lives if physical distancing started 2 weeks earlier, study finds

New research suggests thousands of coronavirus-related deaths could have been prevented if the United States had acted more quickly with physical distancing policies.
New research suggests tens of thousands of coronavirus-related deaths could have been prevented if the United States had acted more quickly with physical distancing policies.

Researchers at Columbia University say if distancing started two weeks earlier, over 960,000 cases, or 84 percent, and more than 53,000 deaths, or 82%, could have been averted.

In the New York metropolitan area, the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., just over 246,000 cases and 20,000 deaths may have been prevented.

"Now that COVID-19 is established as a global pandemic, rapid response remains essential to avoid large-scale resurgences of infections and deaths in locations with reopening plans," researchers wrote in the study.

The team looked at transmission rates from mid-March through the beginning of May.

The disease modelers said that 61.6% of deaths and 55% of infections could have been avoided if preventative measures in place on March 15 had been enacted a week earlier. That equates to about 35,927 deaths and 703,975 cases.

Their findings have not been peer-reviewed by other experts for accuracy, and all models are merely estimates, subject to change with new information.

ABC News contributed to this report.
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