A leading model has increased its US coronavirus death toll projection again as governors continue lifting measures toward a reopening.
The model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington now forecasts more than 137,000 Americans will die by early August, up from its previous forecast of 134,000 deaths.
That rise is largely due to Americans moving around more, IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said in a news release, adding that in some places the upward trend in movement began before statewide measures were relaxed. Researchers tracked that movement through anonymous cell phone data, according to the release.
“Unless and until we see accelerated testing, contact tracing, isolating people who test positive, and widespread use of masks in public, there is a significant likelihood of new infections,” Murray said in the release.
That increased movement could be seen in a photo posted Saturday by Dr. Ethan Weiss showing a packed United flight with every seat taken.
On Sunday, TSA agents screened 200,815 passengers — 8% of the total from a year ago, according to TSA.
That’s up from 128,875 passengers on Sunday, April 26.
States began setting reopening plans inlate April — with governors in South Carolina and Georgia leading the way with some of the most aggressive plans — and by this week, nearly every state has begun relaxing restrictions.
Despite not meeting guidelines put forth by the federal government, states laid out phased reopenings they said were guided by data and the advice of medical experts. But other public health officials gave dire warnings about the thousands of lives that could be lost with a premature relaxing of measures.
And the public remains torn as well: A Pew Research Center poll showed nearly two-thirds of Americans said they were concerned about their state opening too early. But thousands of people across the country protested in recent weeks for their right to go back to work.
What might come after the reopenings won’t be apparent for weeks. One expert told CNN it will be at least two to three weeks before states may begin seeing increased infections.
So far, more than 1,329,700 Americans have been infected and at least 79,528 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The strange illness that could be linked to the virus
In New York, health officials are now looking at a mysterious illness that’s showing up in children they believe may be linked to the virus.
The condition, which doctors refer to as “pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome,” left dozens of New York children hospitalized, many of whom tested positive for the virus or had its antibodies, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
On Sunday, the governor said state officials were investigating 85 cases, mostly toddlers and elementary school-aged children.
Many of the children had fever and symptoms similar to toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease, which causes inflammation in the walls of blood vessels, including those that supply blood to the heart. In rare cases, it can lead to deadly limitations in blood flow.
Similar cases have been reported internationally, including in the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy.
Though the coronavirus most severely affects elderly people with pre-existing conditions, the children’s cases suggest that no age group is immune and raises new questions about how to safely reopen schools in the fall.
A battle over coronavirus checkpoints
In South Dakota, a Native American community set up checkpoints along state and US highways in efforts to track the virus and stop it from spreading.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem sent letters Friday to leaders of the Oglala Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux tribes demanding the checkpoints be taken down.
In a Sunday update, Noem’s office warned if the checkpoints “don’t come down, the state will take the matter to federal court.”
But the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is refusing to take them down, and the tribe’s chairman, Harold Frazier, told CNN the community wants to ensure people coming from highly infected areas go around the tribal lands.
“With the lack of resources we have medically, this is our best tool we have right now to try to prevent (the spread of Covid-19),” Frazier told CNN.
The 12,000 people who live on the reservation, Frazier said, rely on an eight-bed facility and have no intensive care unit (ICU). About 198 Native Americans in South Dakota have been infected with the virus, according to state data.
The cases in the White House
Meanwhile, top health and federal government officials have come in contact with people infected with the virus — and some have announced they’ll be going into quarantine.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, told CNN he would be going in a “modified quarantine” after coming in contact with a White House staffer who tested positive for the virus.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, will also go into quarantine after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Officials will not identify the person to whom Hahn or Redfield were exposed.
The White House confirmed Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller tested positive on Friday. She was often in White House coronavirus task force meetings.
But Pence is not planning to self-quarantine, his office said Sunday, adding that he plans to be back at the White House on Monday. He has tested negative for the virus every day, Pence spokesperson Devin O’Malley said.
And last week, President Donald Trump also learned one of his Oval Office valets tested positive for the virus.