COVID killed 1 million Americans. Here’s how many the Bay Area’s approach could have saved.

Six-hundred-fifty-thousand Americans would still be alive.

If the United States had the Bay Area’s death rate from COVID-19, 350,000 people would have died so far — not 1 million, the astounding number of deaths the country will reach this month. That’s about as many as the entire population of San Jose.

How did the Bay Area avoid the worst of the virus’s wrath? While good fortune and good health played a role, new analysis makes clearer than ever the advantage bestowed by the region’s whole-hearted embrace of public health restrictions and vaccines.

Our lockdowns, masking and social distancing helped us to a death rate among the country’s lowest even before vaccines became widespread. When it was time to get jabbed, we lined up – and an already low rate plummeted to a level seen almost nowhere else in the  United States.

In other words, the Bay Area behaved – and reaped the rewards.

“It wasn’t all behavior, but mostly behavior,” said Dr. Bob Wachter, who leads UC San Francisco’s medical department. “In the Bay Area and California generally, policymakers took it very seriously, acted responsibly and people listened.”

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Author: Harriet Blair Rowan, John Woolfolk