The nationwide lockdowns prevented 60 million coronavirus cases in the United States, according to research from UC Berkeley published on Monday. The study concludes that the lockdowns had large health benefits.
To put that number in perspective, the CDC estimates that there were 60.8 million H1N1 (swine flu) cases during the 2009 pandemic.
The 60 million refers to total cases, but due to limitations in testing, they conclude the lockdowns prevented 4.8 million confirmed cases nationwide.
If we go by the CDC’s latest best estimate for the overall fatality rate (0.26%) that means the 60 million infections prevented saved 156,000 lives. At the time of this writing, there have been just over 110,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States.
According to the study, lockdowns in the United States, China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, and France prevented a total of 530 million infections. Prior to the lockdowns, infections were growing an average of 38 percent daily, doubling roughly every two days, but the lockdown policies slowed the spread.
“So many have suffered tragic losses already. And yet, April and May would have been even more devastating if we had done nothing, with a toll we probably can’t imagine,” said Solomon Hsiang, the author of the study and director of Berkeley’s Global Policy Laboratory and Chancellor’s Professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy.
“The last several months have been extraordinarily difficult, but through our individual sacrifices, people everywhere have each contributed to one of humanity’s greatest collective achievements,” he added. “I don’t think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time. There have been huge personal costs to staying home and canceling events, but the data show that each day made a profound difference. By using science and cooperating, we changed the course of history.”
The study doesn’t seem to explain why countries like Sweden, which did not impose a nationwide lockdown, did not suffer catastrophic infection rates.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis