Parks, trails reopening and 80 degree weekend have doctors warning, COVID isn’t over

VIDEO: UW Medicine raises its predictions of number of people projected to die from COVID-19

SEATTLE — Parks are open again in Seattle and it was a non-stop bustle at Green Lake Park on Tuesday afternoon. It’s the first day of Washington’s “Phase 1” of reopening.

The easing of restrictions and warm spring weather has doctors worried people will take the newfound freedom too far and cases will go up.

“Feeling great!” said Jason Lambacher, a jogger at Green Lake.

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“I’m very excited about it,” said Jaye Cory, walking at Green Lake. “I took a couple of days off and I’m glad it opened when I have the week off to enjoy some sunshine,” she said.

Doctors in our area are a little less excited.

“As far as the reopening goes, everyone is in a little bit of trepidation,” said Dr. John Dunn, Kaiser Permanente’s medical director for preventative care.

Dunn says Washington has done a great job with social distancing.

“The fact this has gone so much better than I was afraid it would - that's really a credit to all of us,” Dunn said.

But he warns the easing of a few restrictions does not mean life can go back to normal.

“That’s a really dangerous way to look at it,” Dunn said. “If everybody suddenly starts going back to what they were doing before, then we're right back at square one and we’ve got to do the whole thing over again. And nobody anywhere wants that,” he said.

In fact, states around the country have reopened economies, some— like Georgia — against public health recommendations.

“I have a lot of friends and colleagues in jobs like mine all over the country. Some of them really feel overwhelmed, some of them really are feeling nervous about what’s coming,” Dunn said.

That has University of Washington researches revising their death toll forecast sharply upward.

The UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) produces models frequently cited by the White House.

Their predictions now say more than 134,000 people in the United States will die by August 4. That's nearly double what researchers were forecasting last week.

“From the public health point of view, namely, there will be more deaths,” said Professor Chris Murray, the director of IHME.

States with the biggest death toll prediction increases are Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, California, Texas, Florida, and Alabama.

Despite this, protests to reopen around the country are intensifying, like in Boston.

Doctors in Seattle warn, although Washington is very low on the list of increased death projections, even our hospitals could still be overwhelmed if people stop following guidelines.

“If we push our newfound freedom a little too far, we’re going to find what we were experiencing a month ago, is a walk in the park compared to what we could see. We could really see a striking increase in cases, and we could see it very fast,” Dr. Dunn said.

He said hospitals here are prepared to handle a bump in COVID-19 cases, but reminds us that 95% of the population is still susceptible to the coronavirus. It means large outbreaks are still possible if social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing measures are not followed.