This many lives could have been saved if social distancing had started 1 week earlier

Thousands of lives could have been saved in the coronavirus pandemic if social distancing measures were implemented just one week earlier in the US, according to new data.

New research from Columbia University found that the US could have prevented nearly 36,000 deaths from COVID-19 if social distancing tactics were put in place one week earlier in March. The study found that social distancing measures put in place after March 15 “effectively reduced rates of COVID-19 transmission in the focus metropolitan areas,” but if measures were made sooner– between March 1 and March 8 – the US may have prevented more than 700,000 confirmed cases and 35,927 deaths nationwide as of May 3.

In the New York metro area, the epicenter for the virus, earlier social distancing measures could’ve prevented many lives, according to researchers. Fewer than 4,300 people would have died from the virus if measures were placed just a week earlier by May 3, researchers said. Instead, 21,800 people died in the area by early May.

“It’s a big, big difference. That small moment in time, catching it in that growth phase, is incredibly critical in reducing the number of deaths,” Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, told The New York Times.

New York City schools closed on March 15, which came shortly before Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a stay-at-home order for residents across the state on March 22.