Experts predict COVID-19 will kill about 60,000 Americans over the next four months. And some say if the government had acted more swiftly and efficiently in urging social distancing just two weeks sooner than it did, that number could have been slashed by 90%.
Epidemiologists Britta L. Jewell and Nicholas P. Jewell, writing an opinion piece for the The New York Times, say the White House issued initial social distancing guidelines March 16, closing schools and avoiding groups of more than 10.
According to the authors, that first wave of deaths from the epidemic could have been reduced dramatically if social distancing procedures had been instituted just two weeks earlier March 2, when there were only 11 deaths in the nation.
Even just one extra week of decisive action would have brought the expected death toll down to 23,000 fatalities — a 62% reduction, according to estimates published in Futurism.
"Earlier is better," say the Jewells, pointing out Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, agrees with their premise.
"Obviously, you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives," he told CNN's "State of the Union." But he noted "there as a lot of pushback about shutting things" early in the outbreak.
"Whatever the final death toll is in the United States, the cost of waiting will be enormous," say the epidemiologists, "a tragic consequence of the exponential spread of the virus early in the epidemic."
The Jewells warn easing stay-at-home guidelines too soon could lead to an entirely new wave of the pandemic.
"It is important to understand that lockdowns are not a solution to the virus, but they do buy us time to better prepare for further waves of infection and to develop treatments and vaccines," they write in the Times.
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