SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – A leading model projecting coronavirus deaths is lowering its number and could be used as an argument to open up the economy sooner.

As protests have erupted in some states over the shelter in place strategy, there’s a warning from some leading experts on COVID-19. They say if the lock-down measures aren’t continued, we could see spikes once again.

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“This is not the time to back away from the measures that are already working,” said UCSF epidemiologist George Rutherford.

The Institute of Health for Metrics and Evaluation just lowered its nationwide projection to just over 60,308 deaths. So far, more than 39,000 people have died.

“I think this is good news. But understand, this stuff can go sideways in a hurry,” said Rutherford.

“It looks like a number of states in the South, for example, will have smaller epidemics than were expected,” said IHME Director Christopher Murray.

“California and the Bay Area have successfully flattened the curve and the measures taken like sheltering in place have had an impact on the transmission of the virus,” said UC Berkeley epidemiologist Art Reingold.

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Experts initially estimated the Bay Area would suffer 44,500 deaths. So far, 170 people have died across seven counties.

“I think we’re in good shape in the Bay Area and in California. Some of the other states that are playing around with this are playing with fire,” said Rutherford.

The White House and Trump administration have touted the IHME model and recently declared several states should open up their economies, including Minnesota and Michigan.

But Reingold and other epidemiologists believe factors like the rate of current transmission, hospital needs, testing capacity, contact tracing among others, need to be considered.

“Most governors are really trying to make this decision based on those kind of factors and not on a national model quite frankly,” said Reingold.

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“Opening up the economy and lifting all these measures too early could become a direct lesson from the 1918 influenza epidemic. If you stop early. It will all come back next week,” said Rutherford.