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UW expert: ‘History of the virus remains to be written’ in US

A nurse at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

With the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation recently increasing its predicted total for coronavirus deaths in the United States, its researchers are looking to remind the country that the outbreak is far from over.

UW modelers working to figure out when (and if) country can reopen

“Despite our nation’s eagerness to move past the pandemic, the history of the virus remains to be written in our country,” IHME’s Dr. Ali Mokdad said Sunday. “Some states will fare much better than others, not only in terms of lives lost, but also in terms of the economic toll.”

The latest update to the IHME model predicts that the United States could have over 137,000 coronavirus deaths by August. That’s largely driven by increases in mobility of residents in states that have begun to relax social distancing measures.

That includes Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Georgia, each of which has seen “at least a 20 percentage point increase in mobility patterns.”

That being so, Dr. Mokdad points out that the “upward trend in movement began in several places long before state-level mandates were relaxed,” with many of those states’ residents not adhering to early distancing guidelines.

Understanding how researchers are predicting spread of coronavirus

In the days ahead, he stressed the need for states to sufficiently ramp up testing and tracing efforts to avoid surges in coronavirus deaths and new cases.

“Whatever decisions state leaders make when weighing the costs and benefits of physical distancing, it is crucial for them to be aware of both the spread of the virus and factors that could speed or reduce its spread,” he noted. “For states facing challenges ramping up testing to keep pace with infections, it is urgently important to find ways to overcome these challenges.”

Mokdad also detailed how it’s “essential” to keep a close eye on mobility patterns to properly assess what measures are needed to prevent a rebound of the virus.

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