New England would see a spike in deaths from the novel coronavirus if social distancing measures currently in place were lifted, a new online modeling tool shows.
According to the COVID-19 Simulator developed by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Georgia Tech, the total deaths from the coronavirus in the six New England states could reach some 90,000 by the end of August if all restrictions were lifted. The number of total cases in the region would balloon to nearly 6.5 million.
In contrast, under current restrictions, the simulator shows New England states could see a cumulative total of 9,824 fatalities and 167,074 cases on Aug. 31, according to the simulator.
If states went into total lockdown, there would be total 8,541 deaths and 104,716 new cases by Aug. 31.
In Massachusetts, 4,960 people would die under current restrictions by Aug. 31 with 87,700 new cases. If all restrictions were lifted, that number would increase nearly 10 times for an estimated 49,500 deaths with nearly 3.5 million new cases. Under a lockdown scenario, 4,430 people would die and there would be 60,000 new cases, according to the model.
Results indicate that lifting restrictions too soon could result in a second wave of infections and deaths.
“Policy makers need to make decisions quickly—our analysis shows that even a week’s time can have a huge impact on the future trajectory of COVID-19. We developed the COVID-19 Simulator to inform such key decisions under this highly uncertain environment,” said lead investigator Jagpreet Chhatwal, PhD, a Senior Scientist at the MGH Institute for Technology Assessment and an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School.
The simulator was developed to help policy makers see how lifting or extending different social-distancing measures at various times can impact each state in terms of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
As of Monday, 5,406 people died and 99,389 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in New England.
Different scenarios can be measured with the tool, showing how varied lengths of lifting restrictions, extending stay-at-home orders and going into lockdown would impact the rate of new cases, strain on the healthcare system and deaths.
The state-level analysis provides a view of trends in one state under different intervention policies; a state-by-state comparison provides a view of trends for multiple states at the same time, under different intervention policies; and a national-level analysis provides a view of trends for the United States as a whole under different intervention policies.