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Report: Coronavirus death toll will increase drastically if states reopen too early

Published May 5th, 2020 4:34PM EDT
Coronavirus Deaths
Image: Peter Foley/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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  • The number of coronavirus deaths could rise by 233,000 if states reopen too early, according to a statistical model from the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Some states are keeping strict lockdown measures in place until June while others have already started easing up on restrictions.
  • A recent report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy anticipates that the coronavirus pandemic may last for another two years.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

A new report based on data from the Penn Wharton Budget Model (PWBM) suggests that easing lockdown requirements too soon could result in an additional 233,000 coronavirus-related deaths. It’s a jarring figure, to be sure, but it helps highlight the importance of taking a measured and cautious approach when it comes to returning to normal day-to-day living. Even if current lockdown measures remain in place, the PWBM suggests that coronavirus cases in the United States might reach 2.3 million by the end of June and result in 117,000 deaths. As it stands now, there have been 1.2 million coronavirus cases in the United States which have resulted in 71,000 deaths.

In an absolute worst-case scenario that would see every state immediately drop stay-at-home directives and social distancing guidelines, the model predicts that coronavirus cases would reach 8 million and cause 350,000 deaths. Of course, a worst-case scenario isn’t in the cards as many states are taking the pandemic extremely seriously and aren’t planning to loosen safety measures for a few more weeks.

The reality is that it’s hard, if not impossible, to anticipate how this is going to play out given that reopening the country back up will be on a state-by-state basis. While some states are taking a conservative approach and will keep all lockdown measures and social distancing guidelines in place until early June, others have already started easing up restrictions. In Arizona, for example, retail stores will be allowed to reopen for in-person business starting this Friday.

The core problem in loosening restrictions too early is that the coronavirus is more efficient at spreading far and wide relative to other influenza viruses. This, coupled with the fact that many people with the virus are asymptomatic, could easily result in a second and potentially more dangerous second wave of the pandemic taking hold. For this very reason, a recent report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota claimed that the coronavirus pandemic could last for as long as two years.

While some coronavirus treatments — like the drug remdesivir — appear to be promising, it doesn’t seem like we’ll truly be able to eradicate the virus until a vaccine is developed. And while it’s hard to predict anything these days, Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said that a coronavirus vaccine might be available as early as January 2021.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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