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UW modeler ‘concerned we are flying blind’ as states begin to reopen

Protesters in Walla Walla. (The Jason Rantz Show)

The latest update from modelers at the UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicts upwards of 147,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by August, driven by what one researcher worries is a lack of preparedness from states beginning to reopen.

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

“Our main question now is whether Americans, as they increase their mobility, are doing so in a safe way,” the IHME’s Dr. Ali Mokdad said Wednesday. “That main question, plus the lack of robust monitoring, has me concerned that we are driving blind in places as we reopen our economy and will prevent us from reacting quickly if a second wave occurs.”

Wednesday’s update to the IHME model marked an increase of almost 13,000 more predicted deaths since last week, driven largely by increases in mobility in states choosing to relax distancing measures.

While many experts have emphasized the need for a more robust system of coronavirus testing and contact tracing before distancing measures can end, many states have opted to begin reopening against that advice.

“I understand the urge to go back to the new ‘normal,’ but fear that we are not preparing to do so in the right way,” Dr. Mokdad cautioned. “We need to make sure we have the systems and processes in place to provide us with the information we need to both chart a path forward and assess whether we need to pause and/or take a step back.”

That sentiment was echoed in Thursday testimony from ousted federal vaccine director Dr. Rick Bright, who warned the U.S. to prepare for what could be the “darkest winter in modern history” without an appropriately ramped-up response to the virus.

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

“Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities,” Dr. Bright said in his prepared remarks before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

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