US could have avoided almost 400,000 Covid deaths with better response, report claims

Researcher suggests US death toll could have reached 1.27 million without development of vaccine

Gino Spocchia
Thursday 25 March 2021 20:19 GMT
Donald Trump says US deaths total 'lower than the world'
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As many as 400,000 deaths could have been avoided with a better response to Covid-19 by the United States, a study has claimed.

Although the nation’s death toll stands at 540,000 and counting, as many as 400,000 of those could have been avoided, according to a group of research papers released at a Brookings Institution conference.

Andrew Atkeson, an economics professor at the University of California, said 400,000 deaths were avoidable through the widespread use of face coverings, social distancing, and testing in the run-up to a vaccine rollout, which began in December.

Former president Donald Trump was widely criticised for his response to the virus throughout 2020 by opponents and officials.

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Mr Atekson said the former president allowed a “patch work” of restrictions across the US that caused deaths to “cruise control” throughout the pandemic.

Mr Trump was infamously mask averse and refused to order any national mandates on face coverings to fight Covid-19 — in spite of recommendations by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Mr Atkeson suggested that the final number of US deaths from Covid could reach 670,000, as vaccines continue to be delivered — but without any vaccines, he estimated that US deaths could have reached 1.27 million.

The group of research papers added that certain financial initiatives were at times “wasteful” in the 12 months since Covid-19 reached the US, including the Trump administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

It was revealed in December that $700bn was spent on PPP loans, which were designed to be spent on payroll, rent, utilities and mortgage interest payments.

But at least 25 PPP loans worth more than $3.65m were for businesses with addresses at real estate properties belonging to the former US president and his son-in-law, according to analysis by NBC News.

The programme was described as “an interesting and noble experiment” but also “problematic on many levels,” according to one of the researchers, University of California economics professor Christine Romer.

Although other researchers said the payments had “mixed” results, while “food insecurity remained elevated throughout 2020”, Ms Romer said direct payments were not effective for all of those effect by Covid, and could in fact prevent future spending.

“If something like the $1 trillion spent on stimulus payments that did little to help those most affected by the pandemic ends up precluding spending $1 trillion on infrastructure or climate change in the next few years, the United States will have made a very bad bargain indeed,” Ms Romer wrote.

The research follows the lifting of Covid restrictions in states including Alaska, Arizona and Texas, as well as the passing of a $1.9bn relief bill supported by the Biden administration, which Ms Romer also criticised for its size.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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