The U.S. coronavirus death toll could have stayed under 300,000 if by last May the nation had adopted firm mask, social distancing, and testing protocols while waiting for vaccines to vanquish the crisis, a University of California, Los Angeles economics professor estimates.
The report was released Thursday, the same day President Joe Biden set a new target of 200 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office.
The U.S. death toll exceeds 540,000 and is continuing to rise. UCLA Professor Andrew Atkeson projects a final fatality level of around 672,000 . Without a vaccine, 1.27 million would have died, Atkeson estimated in a report released Thursday at the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity conference.
“Public efforts at disease control can save a lot of lives over the long run by controlling disease while we wait for a vaccine or a cure,” Atkeson told The Brookings Institution. “We have a tremendous opportunity to learn from international experience with COVID on how to do that without tanking the economy.”
The report comes as America’s long stretch of declining daily coronavirus cases appears to be ending – and some states are seeing rapid increases even as one-third of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccination shot.