coronavirus

Key virus model notes states where jumps in population movement may spread disease

The model now projects 137,184 U.S. deaths through early August.

Medical worker at drive-through testing site

A closely watched model the White House has cited to predict the severity of the coronavirus outbreak has slightly increased its estimate of U.S. deaths while identifying five states where increased population mobility could pose a significant likelihood of new infections.

Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Georgia have seen at least a 20 percentage point increase in mobility patterns in the past few weeks, in part due to the easing of social distancing restrictions, according to the the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Another 13 states have experienced between a 15 and 20 percentage point increase, the institute said, citing anonymous cell phone mobility data.

The model now projects 137,184 U.S. deaths through early August, up almost 3,000 from a previous estimate on May 4. Factoring in the margin of error, the new projection ranges from 102,783 to 223,489 U.S. deaths.

Institute Director Christopher Murray said while greater movement increases the risk of contagion, more testing and higher seasonal temperatures would temper disease spread.

The IHME model has generally offered a more optimistic forecast on health system capacity, cases and deaths than other experts have predicted.

Murray echoed other public health experts, saying there's a significant likelihood of new infections without accelerated testing, contact tracing, isolating people who test positive, and widespread use of masks in public.

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