• Models indicate the death toll from COVID-19 could hit 160,000 in the U.S. by Aug. 1
  • The Health Affairs study acknowledged though stay-at-home orders are effective, they are not sustainable
  • The daily U.S. new case count has hit 63,000

A study published by Health Affairs indicates as many as 370,000 lives were saved by shelter-in-place orders adopted across the United States in March and April to curb the spread of coronavirus. The study comes as some health experts are calling for new lockdowns as the pandemic flares across the U.S. South and West.

As of late afternoon Friday, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 was just shy of 134,000 with models forecasting as many as 160,000 deaths by Aug. 1.

“We find that [shelter-in-place orders] reduced the daily mortality growth rate after nearly three weeks from enactment, and the daily growth rate of hospitalizations two weeks after enactment,” Health Affairs found. “After 42 days from enactment, the daily mortality growth rate declined by up to 6.1 percentage points. Projections suggest as many as 250,000-370,000 deaths possibly averted by May 15 in the 42 states plus the District of Columbia with statewide [shelter-in-place orders].”

Authors acknowledged, however, that though the orders were effective in flattening the trajectory of infections and deaths, they “also generate a large economic toll and are not sustainable over extensive periods.”

The shutdowns ordered across the country plunged the U.S. into recession, sending the unemployment rate into double digits and sending some 20 million Americans to the unemployment rolls.

Only two states – California and Arizona – have stay-at-home orders still in place. While California’s is indefinite, Arizona’s expires Wednesday despite climbing case counts that saw confirmed cases in Phoenix rising 31.7% from last week and 23.8% in Tucson. Statewide 4,221 new cases were reported Friday, bringing the statewide total to 116,892, with a 14% positive test rate.

In California, 7,798 new cases were reported Friday with more than 6,000 COVID-19 victims hospitalized and 140 deaths. Statewide, 304,297 cases have been confirmed, 40% of them in Los Angeles County, with 6,851 deaths.

Florida added more than 11,000 cases.

As of Thursday, 16 states had no limits on the size of gatherings. Large gatherings have been cited as a vector for spreading the virus.

A shortage of testing kits forced California and Nebraska to close testing sites while Arizona and South Carolina reported delays in obtaining results due to a lack of laboratory testing capacity, ABC News reported.

Forty-one other states have lifted stay-at-home orders, and the U.S. is adding more than 63,000 cases a day, but several governors have taken steps to slow down reopening plans with some issuing orders to close down bars and dining areas in restaurants, and others have issued face mask orders.

The mortality rate also was climbing, with 800 deaths reported on each of three successive days this week.