A University of Washington model that has guided the White House coronavirus task force on the reach of COVID-19 suggests that no state should end social distancing before the start of May.
UW’s IHME model says that Vermont, West Virginia, Montana, and Hawaii are among the states best positioned to end strict social distancing guidelines, with an estimated date of May 4. But the model suggests that Iowa, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Utah, Arkansas, and Oklahoma are among states that will need to wait well into June or even into July.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump gave states guidance on how to reopen state economies, and stated that some states could reopen as soon as today. The White House previously issued guidelines calling on strict mitigation through the end of April.
IHME Director Christopher Murray said state governors should be careful not to reopen states too early.
“Relaxing social distancing too soon carries great risks of a resurgence of new infections. No one wants to see this vicious cycle repeating itself,” Murray said.
The model has decreased its estimated death toll in recent weeks. The IHME projected in late March that around 90,000 Americans would die during the current wave of COVID-19, not accounting for a possible second wave. Now, the IHME model suggests a national death toll of around 60,000.
The IHME model does not take into account new guidelines that call on states to count “presumptive” deaths. Earlier in the week, the death toll in New York City jumped by several thousand after health officials found that some patients died at homes and nursing homes with likely cases of coronavirus.
Murray said the lowered death estimates is a sign that social distancing efforts are working.
“We are seeing the numbers decline because some state and local governments, and, equally important, individuals around the country have stepped up to protect their families, their neighbors, and friends and coworkers by reducing physical contact,” said Murray. “Now, the challenge – as well as opportunity – is for states to figure out how to reopen the US economy and allow people to get back to work without sacrificing that progress.”
The model also suggests that the peak of COVID-19 deaths hit the United States on Wednesday. The model indicates that the daily death toll of coronavirus will begin to decline. The model now suggests that if its guidelines are followed, new deaths from the virus will virtually stop by the end of May.
To see estimates for your state, click here.