Study: Coronavirus Live Updates: NPR

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New analysis shows that social distancing has been very effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19 – and that thousands of lives could have been saved if the policies had started earlier. In this photo from March 17, people are eating at a restaurant along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida, almost a week after President Trump declared a national emergency.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

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Joe Raedle / Getty Images

New analysis shows that social distancing has been very effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19 – and that thousands of lives could have been saved if the policies had started earlier. In this photo from March 17, people are eating at a restaurant along Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida, almost a week after President Trump declared a national emergency.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Updated at 12:10 p.m. ET

The United States could have prevented approximately 36,000 deaths from COVID-19 if extensive social distancing measures had been put in place a week earlier in March, according to an analysis by Columbia University.

Stressing the importance of an aggressive response to the coronavirus, the study found that the United States could have avoided at least 700,000 fewer infections if the actions that started on March 15 had actually started on March 8.

The United States currently has more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 93,000 people have died from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In the analysis, the researchers applied transmission models to data from the actual course of the pandemic, county by county, in the United States – the most affected nation in the world. The main focus of the study was the period from March 15 to May 3, when states and counties in the United States implemented “measures to strengthen social distancing and restrict personal contact.”

And if the restrictions had come into effect in the United States two weeks earlier, the researchers said, nearly 54,000 people would still be alive and almost a million cases of COVID-19 would have been prevented.

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