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Stay-at-home orders reduced COVID-19 cases, deaths, study finds

Oct. 22 (UPI) — Areas of that country that instituted stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of COVID-19 reduced case counts by up to 200%, according to a study published Friday by JAMA Network Open.

These measures also likely reduced deaths from the virus by more than 20%, the data showed.

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“In the early days of COVID-19 in U.S., the stay-at-home orders that were put in place by many states likely helped prevent cases, infections and subsequent fatalities,” study co-author Bisakha Sen told UPI.

“Public health experts who recommended stay-at-home orders, and political leaders who implemented them, seem to have gotten it right,” said Sen, chair of the division of health economics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health.

Following public health guidelines for pandemic infections from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others, many states across the country instituted stay-at-home orders when COVID-19 case numbers began to rise in March.

The measures were met with some resistance, given the economic consequences resulting from closed businesses and schools.

However, a modeling analysis using data from 131 countries published Thursday by The Lancet Infectious Diseases found the “least comprehensive” measures — bans on public events and gatherings of more than 10 people — cut disease transmission by nearly 30%, while more comprehensive, full-lockdown approaches led to a 52% reduction.

For their analysis, Sen and her colleagues analyzed daily, state data on COVID-19 cases, tests and fatalities between March 1 and May 4 from the COVID Tracking Project.

States opting to not implement stay-at-home orders had 219% more cases and 22% more virus-related fatalities than those that did, the data showed.

In addition, states with higher Black American populations had more COVID-19 cases, whether or not they issued stay-at-home orders, the researchers said.

For every 1% of the overall population made up by Black people, a state could expect that total cumulative cases would be 5% higher and total deaths would be 7% higher, the data showed.

“We cannot say based on our findings what the impact of stay-at-home orders would be compared to a scenario of no orders, but everyone following … recommendations on wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds etc.” Sen said.

“Stay-at-home orders come with real and painful economic costs, so I think it should only be considered in a worst-case scenario where the population is simply not adhering to the other safety measures and cases are climbing steeply,” she said.

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