24 States Had Better Be Very, Very Careful

Imperial College London issues a sobering assessment of the virus
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2020 4:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – A new coronavirus model says 24 states might have high transmission rates if they reopen without any effort to curb the contagion, the Washington Post reports. Researchers at Imperial College London drew on case information and cell phone location data to estimate each state's virus reproduction number, dubbed "Ro" or "R naught"—meaning the number of people each infected person will infect. The reproduction number is below 1 in 26 states and the District of Columbia, but above 1 in 24 states, including (from the highest Ro factor down) Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Colorado, Ohio, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, Alabama, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, New Mexico, Missouri, and Delaware (see the full list at Mother Jones).

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But there are issues. The model hasn't been peer-reviewed, and a top epidemiologist on the project, Neil Ferguson, was recently caught flouting lockdown rules to visit his married mistress. Imperial College London also drew criticism from conservatives for releasing the dire report that helped pressure the US and UK into imposing tough stay-at-home orders in March (one technologist told the Telegraph that Ferguson's computer coding was a "buggy mess," for example). But the university stands by its work, saying that "without changes in behaviour that result in reduced transmission, or interventions such as increased testing that limit transmission, new infections of COVID-19 are likely to persist, and, in the majority of states, grow." (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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