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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hours before Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced he will let the state’s stay-at-home order expire on May 18, an updated COVID-19 model predicted about 800 lives would be saved if the order was extended until the month’s end.

Retail businesses can now reopen on May 18 if they follow safety plans, and don’t exceed a 50% capacity.

In a briefing late Wednesday morning, Minnesota Department of Health officials released the third version of the model, which is a joint effort between MDH and the University of Minnesota.

Supposing the state’s stay-at-home order was extended until May 31, the model predicts that virus cases will peak on July 6 with 1,388 deaths occurring through the month of May. The model predicts 28,231 deaths over the course of a pandemic, or about a year.

MORE: Version 3 Of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Modeling (.PDF)

With better testing, the mortality rate over the course of the pandemic could drop to 22,000.

Meanwhile, the model predicts the top ICU/ventilator demand will be 3,006.

Models showed that if the stay-at-home order expires May 18, there are about 800 more deaths — 29,030 — predicted over the course of the pandemic with the top ICU/ventilator demand being 3,397. The peak would also be earlier, on June 29.

(credit: MDH/U of M)

Since businesses like restaurants, bars and salons will remain closed until June 1, these predictions could still play our similarly.

In another key update, the new model found that COVID-19 mitigation — physical distancing and the stay-at-home order — is less effective than previously thought. Deaths rose faster in April than the previous model predicted.

(credit: MDH/U of M)

During the briefing, MDH stressed that COVID-19 remains in its early stages and new evidence is emerging. Ongoing model updates will occur, reflecting new evidence and data.

RELATED: 24 More COVID-19 Deaths Reported As Walz Is Expected To Extend State Of Emergency

In previous briefings, Gov. Walz has asked Minnesotans not to focus on specific numbers, but rather focus on when the peaks might occur.

“Modeling was never meant to provide a number,” Walz said. “It was meant to show trend and direction, that if you social distance you buy more time.”

MDH announced 431 additional cases of COVID-19 Wednesday with 24 additional deaths. Walz is expected to extend the peacetime state of emergency Wednesday evening.

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