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How we know ending social distancing will lead to more deaths, in one chart
President Donald Trump already wants to pull back social distancing policies and guidances implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But we know, based on the nation’s history with past outbreaks, what will happen if we do this too early: People will die.
In 1918, the world was ravaged by a horrible flu pandemic, which was linked to as many as 100 million deaths globally and about 675,000 deaths in the US. In response, cities across America adopted a variety of social distancing measures to combat the pandemic. Based on several studies of the period, these measures worked to reduce the death toll overall.
But many cities, also worried about the effects of social distancing on normal life and the economy, pulled back their social distancing efforts prematurely. When they did, they saw flu cases — and deaths — rise again.