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the coronavirus crisis

Researcher says if U.S. reopens May 1, there would 'very clearly' be a coronavirus rebound

The White House is paying close attention to several models that use data to project the number of coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths that may take place in the United States, including one by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. On Sunday, the institute's director, Dr. Christopher Murray, appeared on Face the Nation to discuss a rolling reopening of the economy and how incomplete closures in some states will affect others with stricter social distancing guidelines.

Murray told host Margaret Brennan that the "issue is if you open up too soon and there is a big load of cases still in the community that have the potential to go back to community transmission, we can quickly see resurgences in some states. So some states it's possible in May, but in other states, it's going to be very, you know, very unlikely that that would not lead to an immediate resurgence."

States on the West Coast seem to be "farther along the epidemic, peaking, and then we need multiple weeks of closures after that peak to bring the burden of cases down to the points where testing and contract tracing has a chance of working," Murray said.

Since there wasn't a uniform implementation of social distancing closures across all states, a major question is how to control importation from outside regions. "We have rock solid evidence that the full closures work," Murray said. "We've seen that in Italy and Spain. We're seeing that out here out west. But what we don't know is do these sort of incomplete closures have the same impact."

In its initial testing, Murray's institute found that "if you opened up the entire country May 1, then we would very clearly have a rebound," he said. "We don't think the capability in the states exists yet to deal with that volume of cases. And so by July or August, we could be back in the same situation we are now."