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Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) lifted the coronavirus lockdown in his state last week and announced the reopening of nonessential businesses. However, models built by epidemiologists and computer scientists at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed that his aggressive reopening plans could cost thousands of lives, The Daily Beastreported.

Georgia’s orders of reopening have been more aggressive than other states, as Kemp issued executive orders allowing fitness centers, tattoo and massage parlors, bowling alleys, and hair salons to reopen last Friday with mitigation. Restaurants and theaters began opening Monday. The state’s shelter-in-place decree will expire at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the state has seen 26,063 confirmed cases of COVID-19, along with 1,108 deaths.

The Harvard/MIT simulation, which used data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center and local survey data, estimated a total of between 1,004 and 2,922 COVID-19 fatalities by June 15, if Georgia maintained its lockdown policies.

But with the current reopening plans of resuming businesses to 50 percent of normal capacity, the simulation saw a fatality count between 4,279 and 9,748. If the employee-on-employee contact resumed one fourth of normal circumstances, the fatality estimation could still reach 3,563.

Researchers suggested that right now might be too early to lift lockdown orders.

“What we find, no matter what we assume, is that reopening on Monday was just too early,” said Jackson Killian, Ph.D. student at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, who worked on the models. “If you let people go out and have contact again now, you end up causing deaths that could have been avoided.”

“The stay-at-home orders cannot go on indefinitely,” said Maimuna Majumder, faculty member at the Computational Health Informatics Program and Harvard Medical School, a co-director that led the creation of the models. Instead, she highlighted the need for a “new normal [that] still allows people to go back to work” and that acknowledges “each of us can make a difference by physically distancing ourselves at, for example, grocery stores.”

Besides Georgia, the modeling team also looked at the neighboring states of Florida and Mississippi.

For Florida, the modelers estimated a death count between 988 and 3,014 if the lockdown orders are kept, but a death range of 1,273 to 4,106 by June 15 if the aggressive reopening policies in Georgia are implemented in Florida. Currently, Florida’s shelter-in-place order is going to end on Thursday.

In Mississippi, a similar contrast is made between a fatality count between 213 and 640 with lockdown, and 1,865 to 3,463 after lifting lockdown, by the time of June 15.

However, the Harvard and MIT data simulation also faces criticism.

Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, an adjunct professor of epidemiology at the University of California Los Angeles who previously worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention argued that the project could “overinterpret the benefit of stay-at-home orders” and underestimate the impact of other factors that also contribute to the infection’s reproduction number.

“It’s very difficult to input the right assumptions to get a useful outcome,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. “The infectivity of the virus, people following these rules, containment—you don’t really know what you’re dealing with.”

Milind Tamble, professor at Harvard’s Center for Research on Computation and Society and leader of the modeling project, responded to the criticism by saying that “the purpose of the simulations” was not to “provide flawless predictions,” but to “inform elected leaders and health officials as they consider methods to revive sedated economies.”

See the full report here.