Updated COVID-19 model predicts when your state could reopen

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April 28, 2020


 
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New projections by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) show some states could safely reopen as early as May 4. (AdobeStock)

This story was updated on April 28, 2020, at 8pm. 

When will your state reopen from its COVID-19 shutdown?

Projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), updated on April 27, indicate that it may be safe to start the reopening process as early as May 11-13 for some states, but as late as July for others.

That’s far too long to wait for some Southern states. On Monday, April 20, the governor of South Carolina issued an executive order allowing retail shops across the state to open that afternoon. In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp announced the reopening of gyms, salons, and tattoo parlors on Friday, with restaurants and movie theaters to open the following Monday, April 27.

According to the IHME projections, though, those two states are among the least prepared to reopen. There’s no indication that either state has the testing capability or contact tracing infrastructure to sustain a “containment” phase of the pandemic. The IHME projections, revised on April 27, suggest that South Carolina wait until June 14, while advising Georgia to wait until June 28.

Curve is flattening, not falling quickly

The IHME model increased total US mortality in the COVID-19 pandemic’s first wave to 74,073 on April 27—an increase of nearly 7,000 from the previous week’s estimate.

“At least part of this increase is due to many states experiencing flatter and thus longer epidemic peaks,” Institute officials wrote. “Further, updated data indicate that daily COVID-19 deaths are not falling very quickly after the peak, leading to longer tails for many states’ epidemic curves. In combination—less abrupt peaks and slower declines in daily COVID-19 deaths following the peak—many places in the US could have higher cumulative deaths from the novel coronavirus.”

An influential forecast

The latest projections are an outgrowth of IHME’s continued work to forecast the scope of the coronavirus epidemic in every state and in several other countries. They come as the group’s work, which has been influential from the White House to statehouses, is attracting criticism from some disease experts.

It’s helpful to keep in mind that the IHME projections are just that—projections. They’re based on the best available data at a certain point in time. The model evolves as scientists learn more each day about the virus, its infection and mortality rates, and how the actions of institutions and individuals affect outcomes.

The projections themselves may influence leaders to make policy decisions, and individuals to make choices, that alter the actual outcome.

“All models are just models,” Dr. Anthony Fauci has said. “When you get new data, you change them.”

Data shifts and changes

“We are now entering the phase of the epidemic when government officials are considering when certain types of distancing policies may be eased,” IHME officials said in a news release on Friday, April 17. “With today’s release, we provide initial estimates that can serve as an input to such considerations in the US.”

In a media briefing, IHME director Dr. Chris Murray cautioned that the potential “opening dates” represent a first take and are likely to change as more information comes in from individual states. Among the key variables are whether deaths are likely to drop sharply once they peak, or whether—as seems to be occurring in New York—they will plateau and decrease slowly.

Another main factor will be how soon states can quickly diagnose and isolate newly infected people and everyone they have come in contact with. States that bolster their health departments and expand testing capacity might be able to start opening up sooner, Murray said.

‘Opening’ isn’t a return to normalcy

The dates represent the modelers’ best estimate of when the daily new infection rate in each state will drop below one per 1 million people.

The reopening estimates assume that when social distancing policies will be eased, they happen in conjunction with public health containment strategies—including widespread testing, contact tracing, and isolation of new cases. They also assume that mass gatherings like concerts and professional sports will not be allowed through at least early summer.

Safe reopening dates, by state, as of April 27

State Safe opening date
(with containment)
Apex of
COVID-19 cases
(April 27 projection)
Total deaths
by June 1
(April 27 projection)
Notes
Alabama May 22 April 27 327
Alaska N/A April 28 18 No deaths since April 14. State eased restrictions on April 24.
Arizona July 6 May 1 793 Death projection +300 over last week.
Arkansas June 28 May 7 173 Death projection +40 over last week.
California May 20 April 19 2,017 Death projection +300 over last week.
Colorado June 1 April 19 1,049 Death projection +400 over last week.
Connecticut June 17 April 20 3,340 Death projection +350 over last week.
Delaware May 20 April 22 162 Death projection+30 since last week.
District of Columbia May 27 April 22 255 Death projection +40 since last week.
Florida June 21 April 19 1,914 Death projection +400 since last week.
Georgia June 28 April 21 2,480 Death projection +500 since last week. Georgia relaxed rules on April 24.
Hawaii May 11 April 27 24 Death projection -2 since last week.
Idaho May 19 April 10 67 Death projection +6 since last week.
Illinois May 21 April 21 2,316 Death projection +200 since last week.
Indiana May 22 April 22 1,025 Death projection +100 since last week.
Iowa July 1 May 4 349 Death projection -100 since last week.
Kansas June 29 May 3 366 Death projection +90 since last week.
Kentucky June 22 April 29 597 Death projection +130 since last week.
Louisiana May 26 April 13 2,066 Death projection +350 since last week.
Maine May 19 April 23 68 Death projection +15 since last week.
Maryland May 27 April 19 1,209 Opening date moved forward 1 week, death projection +100 since last week.
Massachusetts June 21 April 22 3,898 Death projection +1,600 since last week, opening date delayed 3 weeks.
Michigan May 21 April 18 3,785 Death projection +400 since last week.
Minnesota June 8 April 30 728 Death projection doubled since last week.
Mississippi May 31 April 29 380 Stable; death projection -20 since last week.
Missouri June 19 April 22 638 Death projection nearly doubled since last week.
Montana May 18 April 29 27 Death projection doubled in past week.
Nebraska July 7 May 13 381
Nevada May 23 April 7 259 Stable since last week.
New Hampshire May 17 April 21 72 Stable since last week.
New Jersey May 28 April 14 7,051 Stable since last week.
New Mexico June 5 April 29 210 Death projection doubled in past week.
New York May 28 April 8 24,088 Huge losses, but projections stable in the past week.
North Carolina May 13 April 17 375
North Dakota July 20 May 15 259 Latest reopening date in the nation.
Ohio May 15 April 19 835
Oklahoma N/A April 20 N/A Early easing in OK prevents model from projecting total mortality.
Oregon May 30 April 12 125 Stable since last week.
Pennsylvania May 28 April 16 2,318 Stable since last week.
Rhode Island June 22 April 29 594
South Carolina June 14 April 29 351 Death projection +100 since last week.
South Dakota July 5 May 13 45 Death projection fell by half since last week.
Tennessee May 24 April 4 247 Projections stable since last week.
Texas June 15 April 29 1,447 Death projection +300 since last week.
Utah July 6 May 12 422 Death projection doubled since last week.
Vermont May 18 April 13 54
Virginia May 27 April 20 634 Death projection fell by nearly 100 in the past week.
Washington May 31 April 5 860 Death projection slowly creeping up. Curve flattened, falling slowly.
West Virginia May 10 April 18 38 One of the lowest mortality rates in the nation.
Wisconsin May 22 April 11 331
Wyoming June 1 May 4 64

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


 
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Bruce Barcott

Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.