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US could have avoided over 130,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to a new study

Published on 27/10/20 at 12:24pm
Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid

New studies suggest that the US could have avoided over 130,000 deaths if it responded earlier and in a coordinated manner to the coronavirus pandemic. 

One study was conducted by the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, titled ‘130,000-210,000 avoidable COVID-19 deaths – and counting – in the US’. The report looks at the rates of COVID-19 deaths in the US, which ranks first in the world for coronavirus fatalities, and why this number is so much higher than those recorded by its Canadian neighbours. While the report recognises that the US may not have had the potential to implement strategies seen in South Korea and Japan, it feels European nations like Germany have shown a type of strategy that could have been implemented in the US. 

The report says that for “a country with just 4% of the world’s population, US citizens make up 20% of all global cases” and the US “should have – and could have – done better to protect the nation, and particularly its most vulnerable populations, from a threat that was identified and recognised early in 2020.”

In conclusion, the report says: “The failure of the federal government to (a) create a rigorous national strategy for testing and contact tracing, (b) coordinate data collection and coordination among US states, or (c) recognise the scientific validity of non-pharmaceutical interventions like face coverings and social distancing reflect a deeply inadequate national response when contrasted to other high-income countries. 

“Our comparative analysis estimates that somewhere between 130,000 and 210,000 American deaths to date could have been avoided. The weight of this enormous failure ultimately falls to the leadership at the White House – and among a number of state governments – which consistently undercut the efforts of top officials at the CDC and HHS.”

The sentiment from this analysis is shared by Stephen J Elledge, who is a researcher at Harvard, who published a report in medRxiv titled ‘2.5 Million person-years of life have been lost due to COVID-19 in the United States’. In Elledge’s calculations, this threshold was hit in October and corresponds to an average loss of life of 13.25 person-years per COVID-19-associated death. 

Elledge said: “This is an astounding cost and surprising given the apparent public misperception that COVID-19 is a disease that disproportionately impacts the elderly and is somehow of less concern to the rest of society. 

“This misunderstanding is a result of a failure to appreciate the fact that individuals considered elderly still have substantial remaining life expectancies relative to the life expectancy at birth. Secondly, a significant proportion of deaths due to COVID-19 occur in individuals in their 40s, 50s and 60s who had dozens of years of expected life ahead of them.”

Conor Kavanagh

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