We’re nearing the end, but experts say social distancing will still be needed to prevent an outbreak later this year
Experts in Virginia predict that the peak of coronavirus cases in the Commonwealth could come in the next few weeks, but warn there may be an additional surge in the summer.
As of April 17, Virginia has a total of 5,747 cases and 149 deaths. The vast majority of cases can be traced back to long-term care facilities. But the state has seen a gradual decrease in new cases since April 9, as residents continue to use social distancing practices and many stay home.
On Monday, Governor Ralph Northam said he expects to see the peak of cases at the end of April or in early May.
“We are slowing the spread of this virus,” Northam said. He went on to explain that Virginians need to continue adhering to safety measures. “If we stop what we are doing too soon it is clear that we will have a second peak and it could be worse than what we’re dealing with right now.”
The second peak in cases is predicted by a model developed by the University of Virginia using data specific to the state. The surge could come in mid-to-late summer if restrictions on social interaction are lifted prior to June 10.
The model’s best case scenario involves living under current restrictions through June 10. Other models, like the one from the University of Washington, show a more optimistic scenario where social distancing until the end of May leads to cases peaking in April and dropping to low levels by June.
“If we lift the stay-at-home order or social distancing too soon, if we try to rush to get our lives to normal, the number of cases will spike higher and earlier,” Northam said. “Just as soon as we can get people’s lives back to normal, we will, but we have to do it safely.”
On April 15, Northam extended business closures for two more weeks, until May 8. Limited testing for the virus has made it difficult to track the virus and for researchers to provide models with certainty.