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Virus Death Toll Trending Downward As More States Reopen

A surprising trend is emerging as Americans clamor to reclaim some version of normalcy in their daily lives: fewer people are dying from the coronavirus.

Researchers who feed data into one of the most prominent models for predicting virus mortality have seen a surprising shift in their projections since Americans’ mobility has begun to increase. The death toll expected by August 4 has dropped by 3,700 over the past week, as predicted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). Until now, the same model has been predicting an increased death toll as more and more states reopen for business.

Chris Murray, chairman of the Health Metrics Sciences Department at the University of Washington, where the model is maintained, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that his team “was pretty surprised” by the results.

“We were expecting [the death toll] to probably go up because of the big surge in mobility,” Murray said. In fact, he said that his team did not find a correlation between mobility and deaths.

Murray’s team ascribes the surprising new findings to the fact that more people are wearing masks and maintaining a distance from others.

So, one might conclude that Americans – when properly informed of potential risk – are more effective than government at regulating their own behavior. We don’t need a prolonged, government-mandated economic shutdown to protect ourselves and our livelihoods. We are capable of acting responsibly, carrying out commerce and getting on with our lives without being dependent on a government hand-out to stay afloat.

Early results from “reopened” states like Georgia, Florida, Texas, Colorado and others would seem to affirm this premise. In fact, since states began reopening in late April, the daily death toll has been on a steady decline.

Source: worldometer.info, through May 18

Likewise, since a peak on April 23, the number of daily new cases reported has been gradually declining.

Source: worldometer.info, through May 18

Every governor, every state and federal health official, has said that decisions about reopening would be data-driven. The data is beginning to speak for itself. The public, in increasing numbers, has been doing that for weeks. In large part, governors are beginning to listen – and it’s not just in the “red states.”

GOP-governed states like Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Texas were among the leaders. But Colorado, led by Democrat Governor Jared Polis, was in near lockstep with Republican Brian Kemp of Georgia in a phase-one reopening on April 27. Yesterday, California and New York announced that professional sports could be returning in a couple weeks, without fans in attendance. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has also taken a regionally-phased approach to reopening, recognizing that his state faces differing degrees of the pandemic outside of New York City.

It seems that many governors, and much of the American public is finally realizing that we can balance the equal priorities of public health and the national (and very personal) economy. Choosing between the two, for as long we have, has proven to be a recipe for disaster.

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