Coronavirus Death Toll Projection Rises As States Reopen, University Of Washington Model Jumps 10 Percent

As states relax social distancing orders and reopen businesses, computer modeling shows that the projected death toll from the novel coronavirus will increase, Reuters reports.

The University of Washington's predictive model has, for months, been cited by White House officials and officials at the state level as a guiding principle for how the pandemic would play out in the U.S. That model had, until recently, been predicting that the U.S. would see 67,000 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, by August.

However, scientists have revised that figure upward to 74,000. That upward revision is based on the fact that several states are reopening after having been in a virtual lockdown for weeks.

Some scientists and public health officials have been warning for some time that the decision to reopen in some states is rushed, and have expressed concern that the move to get life back to normal is coming too soon.

Christopher Murray, director of the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) -- the entity that produced the model -- said that number of deaths from the disease hasn't leveled off as quickly as hoped. April 15 was the highest single-day death toll from the virus in the U.S., with 2,700 deaths taking place that day,

Murray warned that the death toll will climb if states reopen too quickly.

Protestors gather outside the El Paso County Court House during a rally calling for the reopening of the city.
Getty Images | Cengiz Yar

Regardless of these warnings, some states are still reopening. Their economies have been devastated by closures of businesses large and small, with long lines forming at both the unemployment office and at food banks. Officials are also facing pressure from protesters eager to be able to get back to normal life, as governors of some states are lifting restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

For example, in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that companies such as restaurants and retail shops can open their doors again in phases beginning Friday.

Similarly, as CNN reports, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has allowed the state's barbershops, hair and nail salons, gyms, and certain other small businesses to reopen.

On a national level, the Trump administration has revealed a blueprint that largely leaves it up to the states to implement testing and response programs.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, where the coronavirus has been particularly deadly, says that the Trump administration's blueprint offers little in the way of useful guidance.

"It doesn't set specific, numeric goals, offer a timeframe, identify ways to fix our broken supply chain, or offer any details whatsoever on expanding lab capacity or activating needed manufacturing capacity," she said in a statement.