May 10, 2020 - Health

Key virus modeler says rise in mobility is driving up death projection

Christopher Murray, director of University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday that his coronavirus model projects that more than 137,000 people in the United States may die from the virus by August.

Why it matters: Murray's influential IHME model, which is one of the forecasts used by the White House, has been criticized for frequently revising its projections. Murray said his team is tracking cellphone data and has seen "explosive increases in mobility in a number of states" that will likely translate into more cases and deaths in 10 days.

What he's saying: "We're seeing, in some states, a 20 percentage point increase in just 1o days in mobility, and that will translate into more human contact, more transmission," Murray said.

  • Murray explained that the rise in mobility is likely a result of states relaxing lockdown measures and of people simply growing tired of staying indoors.
  • "The places that are taking off the social distancing mandates, the bump in mobility appears to be larger," he said. "So somewhere like Georgia, which was one of the first, we're seeing is in that category of a pretty big increase."

The big picture: More than half the states in the U.S. have begun lifting some coronavirus restrictions or outlined plans to do so, despite few, if any, meeting the White House's criteria for reopening economies. This has prompted concerns among many health experts that there could be another surge in cases.

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