The president dismissed the Columbia University findings on Thursday. “I was so early. I was earlier than anybody thought. I put a ban on people coming in from China,” he told reporters.
The United States could have prevented nearly 36,000 deaths from COVID-19 had social distancing and and stay-at-home orders been implemented just one week earlier, according to data out of Columbia University.
That equates to a decrease of more than 60% of reported infections (representing over 700,000 people) and 55% of reported deaths. Had the preventative measures been put in place two weeks earlier, beginning March 1, researchers estimated nearly 54,000 deaths, and over 960,000 infections, could have been prevented.
Researchers examined county-level observations of reported infections and deaths, along with data showing the extent to which people were traveling about, and utilized a metapopulation transmission model to find changes in disease transmission rates from March 15 to May 3. They found a connection between the implementation of precautionary measures like social distancing and a decrease in the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s a big, big difference,” epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman, the team’s lead researcher, told The New York Times. “That small moment in time, catching it in that growth phase, is incredibly critical in reducing the number of deaths.”
In the New York metropolitan area alone, the data estimates over 17,500 deaths could have been prevented if stay-in-place orders had been implemented a week earlier, by March 8. Had they been in effect beginning two weeks, earlier the data shows nearly 20,500 deaths in the area could have been avoided.
President Donald Trump has dismissed the study.
“I was so early. I was earlier than anybody thought. I put a ban on people coming in from China,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“Columbia is an institution that’s very liberal. I think it’s just a political hit job, you want to know the truth,” he added.
The researchers also examined what would happen if there were delays in re-implementation of social distancing after a relaxation of control measures and found a longer response time leads to a larger spike in new infections and deaths. This data comes amid a number of cities and states pushing forward with reopening plans even as cases continue to rise in various regions nationwide.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, the president has downplayed the coronavirus pandemic, claiming in January to have the situation “totally under control,” saying it was “just one person coming from China” who was infected. “It’s going to be just fine,” he assured.
In February, he tweeted that the pandemic was “very much under control in the USA.”
He also lashed out at Democrats and the media, claiming the country was “in great shape.”
That same month in a White House press briefing, he said that the coronavirus would simply “disappear … like a miracle.”
In March, in addition to saying he did not take any responsibility for the mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, he touted numbers that proved to be misleading, and which made the situation falsely seem less dangerous.
While Trump cited numbers showing there were less than a thousand confirmed cases nationwide, tens of thousands were likely already infected, experts estimate. However, a lack of adequate testing kept the outbreak hidden.