Peaking COVID: When Will the Country See a Decrease in Cases?

The global COVID-19 pandemic is the largest public health crisis in generations. In the United States, COVID-19 has been confirmed in almost 966,000 individuals as of April 26, claiming at least 53,000 lives according to data from Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. The policy response to this crisis has been to shut down major portions of the economy, affecting daily life and outlooks for the future for virtually everyone in the country. An economic recession is all but certain as unemployment benefit applications spiked to 10 times that of prior
records for some weeks in April. With the weight of this burden, it is natural that policy-makers and private citizens alike are all asking, “when will this be over?”

We have shown previously that non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) in response to COVID-19 have significantly “flattened the curve,” reducing the projected peak level of hospitalizations by about 87 percent from a catastrophically high 4 million (about 10 times the number of general hospital beds nationwide) down to just 553,000 cases. While this number is still above capacity, it is much more manageable, and we now have more time to prepare and to continue flattening the curve. This progress is significant and laudable. However, we are not out of the woods yet.

It is now extremely important to plan to reopen the economy and society in a way that will not lead to a resurgence of the pandemic. To that end, we present here some data on the spread of the disease. We will argue that although the nation as a whole is not ready to reopen en masse, some regions of the country may be ready for at least a partial reopening. We urge efforts at all levels of government across the country to be conscientious in this matter, and hope that this analysis and the data we are providing publicly will be helpful in those efforts.

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