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Dr. Nicole Saphier agrees with new MIT model: America needs to ‘hunker down for a bit more,’ open with caution

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America needs to “hunker down” for a bit longer to avoid a potentially “catastrophic” resurgence in coronavirus cases, Dr. Nicole Saphier urged Saturday.

Saphier — a Fox News contributor — agreed with a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology model predicting an “exponential explosion” in COVID-19 cases if the nation’s lockdown measures are lifted too early.

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“We don’t need this model to tell us that. We know this. We know if we open up too fast, too soon that we’re just going to be in the same place again in a couple of months,” said Saphier, appearing on “Fox & Friends Weekend.”

The MIT model — made using publicly available data from China, Italy, South Korea and the U.S. — followed the SEIR model, which groups people into “Susceptible, Exposed, Infected and Recovered” categories.

A new MIT model shows if the United States were to relax lockdown policies too soon, a catastrophic 'explosion' of coronavirus cases would follow.

A new MIT model shows if the United States were to relax lockdown policies too soon, a catastrophic ‘explosion’ of coronavirus cases would follow.

MIT researchers enhanced the SEIR model by training a neural network to determine the efficacy of quarantine measures and better predict the spread of the virus.

“In the case of the [United States], our model captures the current infected curve growth and predicts a halting of infection spread by April 20,” wrote researchers Raj Dandekar and George Barbastathis.

“On the other hand, we forecast that relaxing or abandoning the quarantine policies gradually over the period of the next 17 days may well lead to approximately one million infections without any stagnation in the infected case count by mid-April 2020,” they added.

This model comes as some state governors relax lockdown guidelines and President Trump continues to roll out a three-phase plan to reopen the country’s economy. The “Opening Up America Again” plan relies on governors to decide when their states should reopen.

“To preserve the health of our citizens we must also preserve the health and functioning of our economy,” the president said at a press briefing Thursday.

On Friday, a key coronavirus model lowered its estimate of total U.S. deaths, but Saphier, a breast cancer imaging specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, urged caution.

“We have to be careful when we look at models, because … models aren’t necessarily predictive of the future,” she said.

“However, we do need to take caution and look at these because this particular model coming out of MIT is an enhanced SEIR model which is something that we look at. … MIT specifically looked at the virus causing COVID-19. So it’s a little bit more accurate.

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“And what they are showing is we can’t just say now we are at the equilibrium or that plateau phase, and now we can start opening,” Saphier added.

“So we have to be very careful when we are starting to reopen the economy, but we have to reopen the economy. We have to start doing that. But we really need to hunker down for a little bit more to make sure that we continue to see [a] decrease in cases.”

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