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Closely watched model says coronavirus could kill nearly 7,700 Mass. residents by Aug. 4

A worker lowers a concrete burial vault at a new grave at Mt. Hope Cemetery.
A worker lowers a concrete burial vault at a new grave at Mt. Hope Cemetery.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

A closely-watched but controversial coronavirus model at the University of Washington now projects the contagion could kill nearly 7,700 Massachusetts residents by early August.

The new projection from the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation was posted to the group’s website Monday. It forecasts 7,697 COVID-19 deaths in Massachusetts by early Aug. 4.

As of Monday, the virus had killed 4,090 Massachusetts residents, according to the state Department of Public Health.

The model, which has been closely watched by the White House, raised its fatality projections for the nation as a whole to more than 134,000 deaths, more than double its previous projection of about 60,000 total deaths, an increase that it said partly reflects “changes in mobility and social-distancing policies.”

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IHME’s higher projections “reflect the effect of premature relaxation of restrictions,” the model’s creator, Christopher Murray, told The New York Times.

The institute said in a separate statement Monday that its new model for the nation “captures the impact of changes in social distancing mandates, changes in mobility, and the impact of testing and contact tracing. It enables predicting a resurgence if and when more social distancing mandates are relaxed.”

Governor Charlie Baker’s order shuttering non-essential businesses in Massachusetts is currently slated to expire on May 18, though state officials have said there will be a phased reopening of various industries. A separate advisory directing residents to stay home except for essential trips remains in effect, and an order requiring people to wear face coverings in public when they can’t socially distance takes effect Wednesday.

The University of Washington model is one of a number of models that experts have built to predict the impact of the pandemic. It has produced varying results as new data has become available.

On April 15, the group projected that the Massachusetts death toll would reach 8,219, a massive spike from its projection two weeks earlier that the virus would have killed nearly 1,800 people in the state by summer. More recently, the group was predicting more than 5,600 deaths.

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Baker warned Monday that restarting Massachusetts’ economy will be a halting process that extends far beyond May 18, suggesting residents should prepare for a methodical return that puts safety ahead of speed.

Baker said the the threat of transmission “be with us for a very long time.”

“I don’t want to bring this thing back. You know, whatever we do here, I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Baker said Monday during his daily briefing at the State House.

Mark Arsenault and Matt Stout of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.



Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe. Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com