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Oregon could begin easing social distancing restrictions May 25, model projects

Gov. Kate Brown has not given a time frame for when the state's economy may begin reopening.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Amid calls from Republican leaders to ease economic and social restrictions in rural areas, one model shows Oregon could still be at least another month away before beginning to reopen the economy.

Under a projection from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Oregon could consider easing social distancing guidelines the week of May 25.

This is based on the state reaching a threshold of one COVID-19 infection per 1 million people, which IHME said was a "conservative estimate" for the number of infections each location would reasonably be able to identify to prevent the coronavirus from resurging. Oregon had 47 new confirmed infections on Monday.

The prediction assumes Oregon stays on the same pandemic trajectory and keeps its current containment strategies in place, including testing, contact tracing and mass gathering restrictions.

According to the data, Oregon may have already seen the peak of the pandemic last week when there were consecutive days of six reported deaths, the most reported in a single day in the state.

The latest projection shows the number of deaths per day being as low as zero or one by mid-May.

State-by-state analysis from IHME finds that while some states could begin relaxing social distancing rules as early as May 4, others may have to wait until after the week of June 8.

Public health experts have said coronavirus testing would need to double or possibly even triple to allow even a partial reopening of America's economy.

Last week, Gov. Brown unveiled a framework explaining what steps would be necessary before the state begins slowly easing restrictions. Her framework had the following prerequisites:

  1. Slowed growth: fewer cases of COVID-19
  2. Adequate PPE to protect health care workers and first responders
  3. A robust public health framework: increased testing, contact tracing and effective isolation

The governor said she couldn't give a specific time frame for when the state will begin to ease COVID-19 restrictions. "I’m not going to put a date on this," she said.

"This is going to move much slower than any of us want, but that is the only way to protect the health and safety of Oregonians," Brown tweeted.

RELATED: Gov. Brown: Process of opening Oregon should be cautious; state still in need of resources from feds

Health experts say that relaxing social distancing too early could bring a large second wave of cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said states reopening too quickly would backfire.

“Unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not gonna happen,” Fauci said. “Unless what you do if you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re gonna set yourself back."

RELATED: Fauci says reopening too quickly will backfire

Last week, the leaders of the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Association of Hospitals pleaded with Oregonians to continue to stay home and continue practicing social distancing.

"Staying home is what has allowed our curve to bend. It will be what will allow our economy to reopen," said Becky Hultberg, CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

RELATED: 'Keep doing what you're doing': Heads of OHA, Oregon hospitals plead for continued social distancing

As of Monday, there have been a total of 1,956 known COVID-19 cases in Oregon, including 75 people who have died.

RELATED: Coronavirus in Oregon: By the numbers

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