Study Finds Between 130k & 210k US Deaths Could Have Been Avoided
By Staff, Agencies
The US continues to lead the world in deaths linked to COVID-19 with more than 222,000 – and some experts believe that figure is much higher. But according to a new study, at least 130,000 of those deaths could have been avoided.
According to a study by the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, the US could have avoided between 130,000 and 210,000 COVID-19 deaths had the country adopted mitigation policies similar to those used by other "high-income nations."
It's clear that the US has disproportionately felt the effects of the pandemic – though it has just 4% of the world's population, it accounts for 20% of COVID-19 cases worldwide. The US death toll stands in stark contrast to countries with similar resources, like South Korea, Japan, Australia, Germany, Canada, and France.
“The United States has turned a global crisis into a devastating tragedy,” read a report released Thursday by researchers at Columbia University. “We estimate that at least 130,000 deaths and perhaps as many as 210,000 could have been avoided with earlier policy interventions and more robust federal coordination and leadership.
The team calculated avoidable deaths by estimating how many people would have died in other nations, like Japan and South Korea, if they had the same population as the US, and comparing those figures to the US death rate.
“Many of the underlying factors amplifying the pandemic’s deadly impact have existed long before the novel coronavirus first arrived in Washington state on January 20th – a fractured healthcare system, inequitable access to care, and immense health, social and racial disparities among America’s most vulnerable groups,” the researchers noted. “Compounding this is an Administration that has publicly denigrated its own public health officials – and science more generally – thereby hamstringing efforts by its vaunted public health service to curb the pandemic’s spread.”
In explaining why US deaths are disproportionately high, the Columbia researchers cited four key mistakes:
- Insufficient testing capacity: Researchers cited issues the US had early on in the pandemic in developing and acquiring tests, while countries like South Korea were prepared almost immediately to test for the virus on a widespread scale.
- Delayed response: A previous Columbia University study determined that instituting national social distancing measures just one or two weeks earlier would have saved 36,000 of lives.
- Lack of a national mask mandate: Top health officials recommended against masks early on in the pandemic, fearing that doing so would lead to a shortage. Even today, masks have become politicized in some circles despite evidence showing that wearing one reduces the spread of droplets that can carry the virus.
- Failure from federal leadership: The Columbia study cited the Trump administration's "hostility to much of the critical guidance and recommendations put forth by its own health agencies," specifically citing the president's attempts to "downplay" the virus.