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Effect of social distancing on COVID-19 incidence and mortality in the US

By Trang VoPham, Matthew D Weaver, Jaime E Hart, Mimi Ton, Emily White, Polly A. Newcomb

Posted 12 Jun 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.10.20127589

Social distancing policies were implemented in most US states as a containment strategy against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The effectiveness of these policy interventions on morbidity and mortality remains unknown. Our analysis examined the associations between statewide policies and objective measures of social distancing, and objective social distancing and COVID-19 incidence and mortality. We used nationwide, de-identified smartphone GPS data to estimate county-level social distancing. COVID-19 incidence and mortality data were from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Generalized linear mixed models were used to estimate incidence rate ratios (IRRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the association between objective social distancing and COVID-19 incidence and mortality. Stay-at-home orders were associated with a 35% increase in social distancing. Higher social distancing was associated with a 29% reduction in COVID-19 incidence (adjusted IRR 0.71; 95% CI 0.57-0.87) and a 35% reduction in COVID-19 mortality (adjusted IRR 0.65; 95% CI 0.55-0.76). These findings provide evidence to inform ongoing national discussions on the effectiveness of these public health measures and the potential implications of returning to normal social activity.

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