According to official statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 indirectly saved more American lives than it took since President Trump announced the restrictions on flights from China at the end of January.

Prior to the threat of COVID-19, the CDC estimated just more than 791,000 Americans would die of all causes between the last week of January and May 2. Shockingly, despite the tens of thousands of lives claimed by COVID-19 as of May 5 the CDC only recorded 751,953 American deaths. Even accounting for the week or two it takes the reported count to catch up to the actual count, 29 of 50 states project to have fewer total deaths through April than the average of the last three years. This vindicates Dr. Deborah Birx’ prediction in an early White House briefing of social distancing saving additional lives due to curtailing the flu and pneumonia.

In our partisan era, it is no surprise that critics of President Trump claim he has “blood on his hands” for anyone who dies rather than a headline along the lines of “Trump Administration Flight Ban and Social Distancing Policies Saves Tens of Thousands of American Lives.” 

On the flip side, it is equally outlandish for deniers of the danger of COVID-19 to infer that more people are dying by committing suicide due to depression over not being able to make ends meet than due to COVID-19. If that were true, then many more Americans would have died than normal due to COVID-19 deaths on top of depression suicides.

According to the data, only eight states (CO, IL, MA, MD, MI, NJ, NY and VT) lost more lives to COVID-19 than were saved by social distancing and less travel. Another 13 states showing 94% to 99% of expected deaths as of May 5 could also end up with more deaths once the actual deaths through the weeks of April 25 and May 2 fully catch up to the count.

The other 40 states who put in stay-at-home orders to date have experienced an 11% lower than expected number of deaths - more than 63,000 more lives saved than lost to COVID-19.

This includes great news for two governors who came under attack. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis incurred liberal wrath for not closing beaches fast enough, but 2,041 more Floridians are alive today than the CDC expected prior to COVID. Likewise, the attacks on Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp for being too slow to act seem unjustified now that 2,607 more Georgians are alive today than forecast. The only states who saved even more lives than those in order are North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and California.

This includes great news for two governors who came under attack. Gov. Ron DeSantis incurred liberal wrath for not closing beaches fast enough, but more Floridians are alive today than the CDC expected prior to COVID. Likewise, the attacks on Gov. Brian Kemp for being too slow to act seem unjustified now that more Georgians are alive today than forecast, and this is true even through the last week that should be fully up-to-date - through April 18. The only states who saved even more lives than those in order are North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and California.

Fewer deaths than pre-COVID-19 forecasts also occurred in each of the seven states cited in this recent report for not issuing stay at home orders. The seven states in question - Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming - all show fewer deaths than the previous three years. NAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, in fact, complemented Utah for the model overall response despite being one of the seven states with no stay-at-home order. 

A governor of Nebraska or North Dakota - with two of the biggest drops in expected deaths - does not need to take the same steps as a city of 11 million people (New York), or a state taking in many people fleeing the virus in New York (Georgia or Florida), or returning from Spring Break or Mardi Gras (like much of the Southeast).

Yes, opening up states to save millions of jobs and thousands of businesses could lead to a bigger spread of COVID-19 and the normal level of traffic deaths and the typical annual spread of other diseases. 

Governors should continue to monitor the numbers particularly after taking steps to see if we begin to see more deaths than normal for this time of year. This is all part of a cost-benefit analysis, but the numbers to date show that the precautions to date have saved tens of thousands of more lives than COVID-19 has killed since the first U.S. case was reported in Seattle.

John Pudner is Executive Director of TakeBack.org

This article has been updated with new statistics.