As the Twin Counties revive the area’s economy with restaurants offering patio dining and businesses ranging from hair salons to auto dealerships awakening from their three-month slumber, we can grumble about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s meticulous reopening phases or we can put things in perspective and conclude that Cuomo’s long and winding road back is a success.
This is based on a study at Imperial College London, whose epidemiologists estimated shutdowns prevented about 60 million coronavirus infections in the United States. The College study examined how stay-at-home orders and shutdowns of businesses and schools limited the spread of the contagion.
More than 110,000 people in the U.S. died from COVID-19. Imagine how many more would have died without the shutdowns.
Despite the massive economic disruptions and soaring unemployment, the study suggested the unprecedented lockdowns were effective at halting the exponential spread of the coronavirus.
The study also hints at something distressing. Even if the pandemic is in retreat in some of the hardest hit areas, it is not over yet. This lull, the eye of the storm, may signal just the beginning of a long-term epidemic. We are far from the herd immunity that scientists are eager to see. The risk of a second wave is very real if all precautions are abandoned, according to the study.
One thing is very clear: Without the shutdown policies in place, April and May would have been far worse in terms of infection rates and many more people would have died. We lived through an extraordinary moment in human history. The shutdowns and other mitigation measures united the world against a common enemy that, unchecked, could have killed millions more.
Good for Imperial College London for helping us understand that this contagion could have been much worse.