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Latest data from UW modelers targets end of May for reopening Washington

The owner of i5 Pho restaurant, gets help from a contractor as he boards up his business in Seattle's downtown Pioneer Square neighborhood. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The latest data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) indicates that Washington could be ready to reopen between May 25 and May 31, “if and only if strong containment measures have already been instituted.”

This is the second iteration of predictions from the IHME detailing when each state might be able to reopen, with the dates in many locations — including Washington — getting pushed back since the first version, thanks to increases in reported deaths and “predictions of longer (and flatter) epidemic peaks.”

In order to open by late May, Washington will need to implement expansive containment strategies, “that include testing, contact tracing, isolation,” and limits on large gatherings. Gov. Jay Inslee outlined a plan Tuesday to have 1,500 workers focused solely on contact tracing by the second week of May.

IHME model

The IHME’s state-by-state breakdown of when the country might be able to reopen.

However, Inslee said the state currently lacks the amount of testing it needs, and he sent a letter to Vice President Pence on Tuesday requesting assistance. There is more lab capacity in Washington state than test kits, Inslee said.

According to the model, the earliest date any state can reopen is in Alaska, with a May 1 target. It estimates that South Carolina and Georgia — which have both already begun to relax social distancing measures — won’t be ready until June 5 and June 19, respectively.

The furthest dates offered by the IHME model are largely in more rural states, whose social distancing measures during the pandemic have been less stringent.

That all being so, researchers have been careful to point out that while their numbers represent a useful tool for determining the trajectory of outbreak, they “certainly would not make a decision just based on our model,” IHME’s Dr. Chris Murray told KIRO Radio.

Rather, they “recommend looking at these types of models, but also looking at a range of indicators,” Murray added, such as capacity of the public health service, available surveillance, and any random sample testing that might be available in a community.

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