Researchers double U.S. COVID-19 death forecast, citing eased restrictions

A sign instructs sun-seekers as they return to the beach during a phased reopening from measures taken to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in St. Pete Beach, Florida, U.S. May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

A newly revised coronavirus mortality model predicts nearly 135,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 by early August, almost double previous projections, as social-distancing measures for quelling the pandemic are increasingly relaxed, researchers said on Monday.

The ominous new forecast from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reflect “rising mobility in most U.S. states” with an easing of business closures and stay-at-home orders expected in 31 states by May 11, the institute said.

“We expect that the epidemic in many states will now extend through the summer,” the IHME director, Dr. Christopher Murray, said in a statement. 

The projections reinforced warnings from public health experts that a rising clamor to lift restrictions on commerce and social activities – in hopes of healing a ravaged economy – could exact a staggering cost in terms of human lives.

The novel coronavirus is already known to have infected almost 1.2 million people in the United States, including 68,762 who have died from COVID-19, the respiratory illness it causes, according to Reuters’ own tally. 

The institute’s predictive coronavirus model, periodically revised to account for changing circumstances and scientific insights surrounding the pandemic, has become an influential data point often cited by the White House and public health authorities in gauging the crisis.

The IHME projections are presented as a statistical range of outcomes. The latest forecast predicts the cumulative number of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 will run from as few as 95,092 to as many as 242,890 by Aug. 4 – with 134,475 lives lost representing the most likely, middle ground.

By comparison, the previous revision issued on April 29 put the middle-case figure at 72,400 deaths, within a range between 59,300 and 114,200 fatalities.

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