The projection was adjusted due to longer peaks in some states and signs that people are becoming more active again, according to Dr. Chris Murray, the director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Help Metrics and Evaluation.
States including Georgia, Texas, Michigan, Hawaii and Alaska have begun reopening. In California, which Gov. Gavin Newsom said is still weeks away from changing its stay-at-home order, beaches in the southern part of the state were packed with thousands of people over the weekend.
The US is also preparing to hit another milestone in the pandemic as it approaches 1 million cases. At least 56,253 Americans have died so far.
“It’s a safer strategy to get the number of infections in the community down to a really low level, and then testing and contact tracing and isolation can work,” Murray said Monday.
Georgia, which Murray’s team warned shouldn’t begin reopening until June 28, began reopening small businesses Friday.
During a press conference Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp said Georgia was “moving forward with data and information and decisions from the local public health officials, meeting and working within the guidelines of the great plan that the President has laid out, and you are seeing many other governors do that as well.”
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Public Health, said “we didn’t meet the full gating criteria, but we met several of them and we were approaching a plateauing, which made us feel that it would be safe to move forward because we had three things in place.”
Those things, Toomey said, were adequate hospitalization, testing capacity and an increasing contact tracing capacity.
As more governors begin reopening their states and others set the date, they’re pushing to get a better idea of how hard their state has been hit through antibody testing. But experts warn there’s still a lot researchers don’t know about the accuracy of the tests, and the World Health Organization has cautioned that no evidence exists yet that antibodies prevent a second infection.
Hard-hit cities begin testing asymptomatic residents
Hoping to get a better idea of how many people have previously been infected with the virus, officials have begun asking asymptomatic residents to test for antibodies.
Los Angeles County will expand coronavirus testing Tuesday to include delivery drivers, rideshare drivers, and taxi drivers even if they’re asymptomatic, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
“These are folks that are on the frontlines, helping us get to where we need to go, helping us have food delivered to our homes,” he said.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said 1,000 asymptomatic residents will undergo diagnostic and antibody testing by Friday to evaluate exposure to the virus in the city.
And beginning Tuesday, health workers will start visiting randomly selected homes in two of Georgia’s largest counties to conduct antibody testing through blood samples.
“This investigation will help us estimate the percentage of people in the community who have been infected with the virus that causes Covid-19,” the Georgia health department said.
In New York, about 15% of the 7,500 people who have been tested in the state’s antibody study have tested positive, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
But the former acting director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told Stat on Monday those tests are “not ready for prime time.”
“As we learn whether that means you are protected in the future, there could be value in that,” Dr. Richard Besser told Stat reporter Helen Branswell about the tests, but “the science isn’t there yet to be able to say what those tests mean.”
“I worry that people will get a false sense of security and they can change their behavior based on the results of that test, or have a false sense of concern if it’s a test that isn’t detecting protections that they may actually have,” Besser said.
States gearing up to reopen in coming weeks
Meanwhile, as health officials work to get a better idea of the number infected, some governors are moving forward with reopening their economies.
Missouri will begin reopening next week, with some statewide restrictions set to be lifted May 4, Gov. Mike Parson said Monday.
“Our plan is working, the healthcare system is not overwhelmed and we are winning the battle,” the governor said.
Under the governor’s new plan, any business will be able to reopen as long as six feet of social distancing can be maintained, and indoor retail businesses will have to limit their number of customers to no more than a quarter of their normal capacity.
In Kentucky, after the state began loosening restrictions for some healthcare services, the governor said the next phases of reopening will be gradual and announced week by week — with more restrictions loosened weekly, starting May 11.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he will allow his stay-at-home order for Texas to expire on April 30. His new order will begin the first phase of reopening to allow businesses like retail stores, malls, restaurants and theaters to open on May 1 with 25% occupancy.