As Southern and Midwestern states start to reopen, several are at risk of a second wave of coronavirus infections within the next month, a new model shows.
Cities such as Dallas and Miami could see COVID-19 infections surge to about 700 cases per day.
And Houston, the fourth-most populated city in the US, could see daily cases surge to more than 2,000 per day.
The model, from the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, uses cellphone data to track changes in mobility to predict the trajectory of new infections over the next four weeks.
Hotspots were predicted in at least six US states: Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
‘As communities reopen, we’re starting to detect evidence of resurgence in cases in places that have overreached a bit,’ Dr David Rubin, a pediatrician and director of CHOP’s PolicyLab, told The Washington Post.
It comes as all 50 states at least partially reopened this week by relaxing restrictions on businesses and social distancing in varying degrees across the country.
A new model from PolicyLab predicts that as southern and Midwest states loosen restrictions, their daily new cases will rise over the next four weeks making them the new US coroanvirus hotpsots
The biggest spike was seen in Houston, with cases in Harris County surging to 2,247 by June 16 compared to the 205 daily cases recored on May 14
In Miami, daily cases could spike to 746 by June 16, the model shows. The most recent data from May 14 showed that daily infections were down to 274
The model showed that, in Palm Beach, daily infections could reach 350 per day, a 243 percent jump from the 102 new cases recorded on May 14
For the model, the team looked at 389 counties across the country with active outbreaks, in which 68 percent of the US population resides.
They looked at daily case counts by county, which were obtained from The New York Times and USAFACTS, and used Unacast cellphone data to track mobility changes.
Next, they estimated forecasts of how daily cases would increase or decrease over a four-week period.
Researchers found that cases with early reopening plans were more prone to resurgences over the next four weeks.
For example, in Miami, daily cases could spike to 746 by June 16, the model shows. The most recent data from May 14 showed that daily infections were down to 274.
And in Palm Beach, daily infections could reach 350 per day, a 243 percent jump from the 102 new cases recorded on May 14.
Florida, which has more than 49,000 infections and more than 2,100 deaths, has lifted restrictions by allowing retail stores, restaurants, gyms and personal care services to reopen at limited capacity.
Sporting venues can also reopen without spectators but bars, nightclubs and cinemas remain closed.
The model also showed grim projections for Harris County, Texas, where the city of Houston is located.
The county recorded 205 new cases on May 14, but researchers predict infections could potentially surge to 2,247 by June 16.
In Dallas, the team estimates that cases could reach 715 per day by June 14 after just 243 were recored on May 14
The model predicts that new daily infections in Montgomery, Alabama could surge to 201 by June 16 from about 48 per day recorded on May 15.
Meanwhile, cases in Atlanta, Georgia could start increasing and hit 59 on June 16. Infections in the city, which is in Fulton County, have been rising and dropping sporadically since March. The state, which was the first to aggressively start reopening, has recorded more than 41,000 infections and over 1,700 deaths
And, in Dallas, the team estimates that cases could reach 715 per day by June 14 after just 243 were recored on May 14.
Texas, which currently has more than 52,000 cases and more than 1,400 deaths, has allowed retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls to reopen at 25 percent capacity.
In some parts of the state, the establishments can open at 50 percent capacity.
‘We’re…seeing in our models that some areas – particularly in the south – that have moved more quickly to reopen are showing a higher risk for resurgence,’ the team wrote.
‘If people in Houston and Palm Beach, Florida, for example, aren’t being cautious with masking in indoor crowded locations and with hygiene and disinfection, local governments may need to intervene again should they lose control of the epidemic.’
In Alabama, which has more than 13,000 infections and more than 530 deaths, gyms and personal care services have been able to reopen. Restaurants can also reopen with limited seating.
The model predicts that new daily infections in Montgomery could increase to 201 by June 16.
Currently, daily cases have been slowly increasing in the city with the count at 48 as of May 15.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, cases are not expected to spike, but at least double from about 10 per day to 20 perday.
Meanwhile, cases in Atlanta, Georgia, could start increasing and hit 59 on June 16.
Infections in the city, which is in Fulton County, have been rising and dropping sporadically since March.
The state, which was the first to aggressively start reopening, has recorded more than 41,000 infections and over 1,700 deaths.
Gyms, personal care and restaurants have been allowed to reopen in the state.
Georgia Gov Brian Kemp has been accused of caring more about saving businesses than saving lives, a charge he dismissed as ‘ridiculous.’
The Midwest is also at risk of a resurgence. The Washington Post saw caseloads spike in Crawford, Iowa and Colfax, Nebraska.
The newspaper reports that Crawford County saw cases increase by 750 percent, and in Colfax County by 1,390 percent.
‘Given these cautious actions by our governments, we have already seen that the predicted resurgence in most places that are beginning to reopen – rather, daily cases are either plateauing or falling,’ the CHOP researchers said.
‘But the picture our models are painting for Texas and Florida provide ample evidence to others who would choose to move too quickly. We see these concerns even as we adjust for additional testing capacity that might have inflated our forecasts.’