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Social Distancing At Work: Model Reduces Predicted U.S. Death Toll By 12%

Could a glimmer of "hope" be appearing on the horizon of the coronavirus pandemic within the United States? Despite the tragic loss of life that the country has already suffered, a new model projects the final total to be less than previously thought.

According to the University of Washington's latest predictive model, the death toll will be 12% less than expected. Due to the success of strict social distancing ordinances, business shutdowns, and stay-at-home orders issued by states, the total US fatalities from coronavirus and COVID-19 will hit 60,308 by August 4. The previous model listed the death toll as 68,841 by that date.

'We are seeing the numbers decline because some state and local governments, and, equally important, individuals around the country, have stepped up to protect their families, their neighbors, and friends and co-workers by reducing physical contact,' said Christopher Murray, director of the university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

As far as daily deaths, the model said that the US reached its peak rate of 2,481 on April 15, and peak hospitalizations on April 14. It also suggests that states with low death rates, "including Vermont, West Virginia, Montana and Hawaii," may safely restore some interactions so long as they continue to restrict social gatherings.

On the surface, that is "good" news, but it comes with a few caveats (via Daily Mail):

States moving to ease stay-at-home measures also are urged to institute widespread testing for infections and to isolate anyone testing positive, while tracing their close contacts and quarantining them.

Other largely rural or sparsely populated states, including Iowa, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Utah, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, may need to wait until late June or early July to reopen, the institute said.

It also recommended that states should only reopen if they have infection rates of less than one in 1 million people.

Given the growing protests by the vocal minority opposing social restrictions and stay-at-home orders, as well as President Trump publicly spurring governors to reopen the economy, it is looking more doubtful each day that those conditions will be met. So although the institute has revised its numbers down twice, Americans are in danger of giving up the ground they worked so hard to gain.

Just three weeks ago, 84,000 Americans were predicted to die in the pandemic.

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