UAB researchers find that stay-at-home orders reduced COVID-19 infections and deaths

Stay at home orders effectiveness

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Researchers at UAB took a deeper dive into how stay-at-home orders impact COVID cases across the country.

UAB Professor Dr. Bisakha “Pia” Sen and two of her doctoral students conducted a study on the COVID-19 impact from stay-at-home orders earlier this year.

“I have tons of publications on my own, but when I get to publish with students, especially develop a cool idea that students came up with, that is hands down the most rewarding thing about being a faculty member,” Dr. Sen said.

The published study evaluates stay-at-home orders from each state. It compares states under orders, to states completely open, under no order. It doesn’t factor in effectiveness of masks or social distancing. It evaluated positive case rates against the presence or absence of stay-at-home orders nationwide.

“We found that without the stay-at-home orders, the case rates based on our estimates could have been up to 220% higher," Dr. Sen said. “The deaths probably would have been about 22% higher."

The data ranges from March 1st to May 4th of this year, when stay at home orders began and ended.

Dr. Sen said research took about three weeks but, the team changed many variables in their research to make sure the information is accurate.

“What happens when you look at it this way, and what about that way," Dr. Sen said. "We do a lot of looking at this way and that way, just to make sure our results aren’t kind of a fluke.”

Dr. Sen said even though the research suggests that stay at home orders did reduce infections and deaths, she doesn’t think it’s an option to be used often.

“I would not recommend stay-at-home orders unless it was a situation that nobody is following any of the public health guidelines and cases and deaths are going through the roof and it is almost kind of like a national emergency," Dr. Sen said. “I think stay-at-home orders should only be used in that kind of a situation.”

She said the benefits of stay-at-home orders can be used without actually staying inside.

“The social distancing, the mask, the avoiding large crowds, all of those can get us many of the benefits of stay at home orders without the economic pain of the stay-at-home order.

The study also analyzed how the virus impacts the African American community.

“We knew the African American patients were disproportionately impacted in terms of they had worse outcomes if they got the disease and they were at higher risks of contracting the disease," Dr. Sen said. “Just the fact that the percent of African Americans in the state was actually significantly linked to both infections and deaths and that it couldn’t be explained away by controlling state poverty or state population density was really a wow.”

Dr. Sen said the research team is planning to do more studies about the virus. Next, they are considering looking to the impact of COVID 19 on Hispanic communities.

You can read the full study here.

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