Lockdowns during early pandemic saved lives, but not a go-to strategy moving forward

The U.S. pandemic lockdown in 2020 caused a $2.3 trillion economic downturn and split the nation politically, and now some European nations are locking down again as Omicron surges through the global population.

But do these drastic measures save lives? Are they worth massive job and income losses?

A new University of Michigan-led study shows the early lockdowns implemented in the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic saved lives–but the decision to use lockdowns is much more nuanced and the research shouldn’t be used to justify lockdowns now or to retroactively endorse that approach, said health economist Olga Yakusheva, associate professor at the U-M School of Nursing.

The study found that from March through August 2020, implementing widespread lockdowns and other mitigation in the United States potentially saved more lives (866,350 to 1,711,150) than the number of lives potentially lost (57,922 to 245,055) that were attributable to the economic downturn.

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