New research model predicts second COVID-19 wave in Georgia

GEORGIA — As Georgia launches a phased reopening of the economy, a computer research model grimly predicts the possibility of a second wave of infections and deaths this summer.

“We observe, and we see as many as 20,000 deaths by the end of August,” said Georgia Tech health systems engineering professor Turgay Ayer.

Ayer's research team joined with Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital to build a COVID-19 simulator.

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It uses up to the minute disease data to project the increase and decrease of coronavirus case and deaths in the United States. In Georgia, it predicts both will rise exponentially in two months if the state lifts most all restrictions on public interactions.

“The cumulative number of cases goes into the million, up to 3 million,” said Ayers.

The researcher said the cases could decline if Georgia reimposes restrictions, including staying at home. He said the number could also be improved if people stick to safety guidelines on distancing, hygiene, and masks.

Ayers said his numbers are based on pre-COVID-19 behavior which includes close gatherings and close contact.

"We should be very careful, at least until June." said Ayer.

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Hospitals in the metro Atlanta area say they have enough capacity and equipment to handle a spike in COVID-19 cases in the coming months. They hope that doesn't happen.

“The only hope I have is that the people have learned by maintaining distance and by using hygiene and masks, they can limit their risk,” said Grady Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Jansen.

When asked about the model projecting a summer surge Kemp said his teams don’t rely on a single model, but many. The governor dismissed the Georgia Tech simulation and said he didn’t know where the data came from.