Strict Public Health Measures During Holidays Likely Saved Lives in Michigan

Michigan on a map.

New research from Marisa Eisenberg

Associate Professor of Epidemiology

Increased social distance measures over Thanksgiving and Christmas following the Pause to Save Lives might have prevented more than 100,000 coronavirus cases in Michigan—potentially avoiding thousands of deaths during the holiday season, according to preliminary findings by the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

"Our modeling suggests that the state's social distancing measures, although challenging for Michiganders, prevented illness and deaths, providing some relief to our already stretched health care system," said associate professor Marisa Eisenberg, who has been working with the state of Michigan since the beginning of the pandemic to provide data analysis and modeling related to COVID-19.

Using U-M COVID-19 modeling data, as well as data from the Michigan Disease Surveillance System, Oxford Coronavirus Government Response Tracker and John Hopkins University Coronavirus database, researchers compared coronavirus cases and public health measures following the Nov. 15 "Pause to Save Lives" mandate.

The modeling showed that between Nov. 15 and Jan. 8, about 109,000 cases were prevented. Based on Michigan's fatality rate estimates of 1.8 to 2.6%, that translates to 1,960 to 2,800 lives saved

The researchers also looked at how government response measures—including closures, economic supports and public health efforts—impacted cases. They found that states with higher average "government response index" did better at containing the spread of the virus.

Michigan had the lowest cases count among Midwestern states over the holiday season. Indiana, which had the lowest government response index, had the highest.

"Michiganders have been doing their part in terms of maintaining social distancing and staying home, and those efforts have prevented illnesses and deaths across the state," Eisenberg said.