Without a vaccine, health experts say mass testing is one way to slowly reopen the economy

SEATTLE - When Washingtonians start to tiptoe back to reviving the economy, life will certainly not be the same.

Researchers say things like concerts and packed stadiums cannot happen most likely until a vaccine.

“We are in the business of making information that is helpful for policymakers,” Theo Vos with the Institute For Health Metrics and Evaluation said.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at UW Medicine is doing critical work pinpointing a timeframe for each jurisdiction across the U.S. to potentially open back up.

“We hope to set targets for jurisdictions to prepare themselves for being able to lift some of the harshest restrictions,” Vos said.

There is a lot of pressure to get the models right.

“Seventy folks are working almost day and night to get these projections,” Vos said.

IHME’s model of Washington state shows a dip in deaths by May, which state leaders are using to come up with decisions.

But Professor Vos says lifting restrictions can only come with mass testing, and U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier agrees.

“We haven’t had robust testing to really know who has been infected in this state, but the estimate is that on June 1 only about 2 percent of Washington’s population will have been infected,” Schrier said.

Schrier, D-Sammamish, says that means the population is just as vulnerable now as we were before.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and other Democrats are seeking $30 billion in emergency funding to expand free and fast testing. There is no timeline as of yet on when that funding will be available.

In addition to mass testing, leaders say every jurisdiction also needs a roadmap to quickly shut things down and contain the virus if there is a resurgence of new cases.

“We can concentrate on the ones who have symptoms and do contact tracing, contract tracking means testing everyone even if they don’t have symptoms we might be picking up a lot of those asymptomatic cases,” Vos said.