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Analysis Finds First Stay-at-Home Order Linked With Fewer Deaths, Except for 2 Groups

California’s first lockdown, ordered by the state last spring, helped curb the number of COVID-19 deaths, but not among all groups, according to an analysis from UCSF researchers. The stay-at-home order was in effect March 19 through May 9.

The researchers found that the strict pandemic protocols, which included mass shutdowns of businesses and activities, coincided with a lower number of excess deaths overall. Two groups, however, Latinos and adults without a high school degree, did not experience a decline.

“The early shutdown worked for California,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF, in a press release. “Mortality rates that were rising early in the pandemic dropped substantially in a timeframe that coincides with the shutdown. But, importantly, not all Californians seemed to benefit.”

When the lockdown ended, the number of deaths climbed for everyone.

Researchers looked at excess deaths: those above what would be predicted without an event that caused mass casualties.

They found that roughly 20,000 more Californians died during the pandemic’s first six months than would have expired in a normal year. Adults who were Black, Latino or lacking  a college degree made up a disproportionate number of those who died.

The researchers concluded that lockdowns are effective but need to be supplemented with more resources for high-risk communities.

A preprint of the study is available on medRxiv.

—Tara Siler and Jon Brooks

Copyright 2020 KQED