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Coronavirus shutdowns across the US are saving 600,000 lives, data shows

Published Mar 24th, 2020 6:35PM EDT
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  • Coronavirus has forced social distancing and shutdowns of schools and businesses, but these measures are saving hundreds of thousands of lives, researchers say. 
  • Reversing course before treatment or vaccine research has matured could lead to an incredible spike in deaths as the healthcare system is overwhelmed by critically ill patients. 
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered the way many of us conduct our daily lives, but the seemingly drastic measures being taken across the United States are saving hundreds of thousands of lives. This, according to a new study by economists led by Martin Eichenbaum of Northwestern University, is more than enough reason to maintain and even expand the social distancing efforts and temporary shutdowns already in place across the country.

The news comes as questions regarding the length of the social distancing and business closures begin to mount. The US stock market is struggling, and President Trump appears poised to push the country back toward economic normalcy despite the looming health threat and potential for catastrophic death tolls.

Public health officials have warned that pushing people back to work before the virus is under control will undoubtedly lead to a greater number of fatalities. We’ve not yet neared the peak of infections in the United States, and it’s still too early to tell how severe this will get despite the measures already in place. Reversing course at this point would be a death sentence for hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.

The researchers crunch a whole lot of data in their paper, then attempt to account for a variety of external factors that could impact how society pushes forward. These variables include the development of a drug that treats the symptoms of COVID-19 as well as a vaccine that actually prevents the disease from infecting hosts in the first place.

The key at this point appears to be social distancing, and that’s simply because we don’t have any other option. While health experts and doctors continue to test existing drugs and combinations of various medications against the virus — and other groups toil away on experimental vaccines that could save the day many months down the road — none of this matters in the present moment.

We’re still potentially weeks or even months away from seeing the peak of the outbreak in the United States, and right now our only weapon against its spread is to stay away from one another. This isn’t good for the economy, of course, but if the trade-off is saving human lives, the decision should seem obvious.

Based on the change in tone of President Trump’s recent public addresses, it’s sounding more and more like the United States will push toward being “open for business” sooner rather than later, regardless of the human impact. We won’t have to wait long to see if that’s really the case, but right now we’re saving lives by staying the course, and continuing these measures would seem wise.