Researchers revise recommendations for reopening

The projected dates for relaxing social distancing policies has slipped later, on average, since Friday’s projection. Click on the image for a larger version. (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Graphic)

The latest computer projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation deliver a double dose of discouragement about the course of the coronavirus outbreak, especially for those in the institute’s home state.

IHME’s April 22 assessment estimates that conditions could be acceptable for Washington state to loosen its current social distancing restrictions on May 28 — which is 10 days later than the April 17 estimate. Moreover, that assessment assumes that public health officials will have adequate resources for testing patients, conducting contact tracing and isolating those who become infected — which is not assured.

The other discouraging word is that the projected U.S. death toll through Aug. 4 has been raised, from 60,308 on April 17 to 67,641 on April 22. There’s a wide interval of uncertainty to that figure: The institute said it could end up as low as 45,375 or as high as 124,120. (The actual death toll was already nearly beyond that lower bound when IHME made its projection.)

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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