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Hopkins expert says lockdowns were necessary, changed course of epidemic in U.S. and a vaccine in 12-18 months is possible

As Maryland and other states begin to reopen, important questions to ask are whether hospitalizations are going up and whether ventilators are in short supply, a Johns Hopkins expert said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Tom Inglesby, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, discussed the country’s reopening, stating that the topline numbers are trending down in the country but to understand where a specific state or country lies during the coronavirus pandemic, the local data needs to be evaluated.

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“There are some states that are still having increasing daily numbers of cases," he said. "Some states that are flat, some states that are going down so you really need to know the story, you need to ask questions in your own state about how things are going.”

Inglesby is on a team of public health specialists that Gov. Larry Hogan consults with as he makes decisions related to the new coronavirus.

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“I think lockdowns were necessary,” he said. “They actually have changed the course of the epidemic in the United States ... And you can see over time that the curve is moving in the right direction and it is now appropriate for states to very carefully reopen and do it as safely as possible.”

He’s hopeful states will be able to control their outbreaks if people continue to be very careful about physical distancing, wearing cloth masks when outside and avoiding gatherings. He also said having very strong contact tracing efforts around the country would be key to reopening.

“We shouldn’t think of this as starting and stopping and this is over. This is a longer term process and we’re all in it together and our actions are going to matter,” he said.

One of the leading models predicts there may be as many as 110,000 people who have died from COVID-19 a month from now, he said. “Those are models, it’s possible for us to do better than models, it’s also possible for us to do worse.”

In previous appearances on the show, Inglesby predicted there would be “waves” of new coronavirus cases throughout the summer and that there would be additional challenges to battling the coronavirus, such as the reemergence of influenza.

While he said coming up with a vaccine in 12 to 18 months is far from a sure thing, that it’s possible.

“Everything would have to break in the right way and there are many ways that it might not work,” he said. “So I don’t think we should bank on it but we should hold out some level of hope that if everything goes in the right direction, we could possibly see a vaccine by the end of the year.”

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