- An influential model of how the coronavirus will hit the US has almost doubled the number of deaths it predicts will take place by mid-August, raising it to 134,000 people.
- The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation raised its estimate sharply — last week it was around 72,000.
- The institute partly attributed the higher estimate to widespread plans to lift state-level lockdowns this week.
- The IHME model has been used by the White House, which has also been revising its estimated death toll upwards.
- So far more than 68,000 people have died from the virus in the US.
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A model that has been used by the White House to guide its coronavirus response has now almost doubled its predictions for deaths in the US.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation sharply increased its prediction for the number of US deaths to 134,000 people will die by mid-August thanks to the “premature relaxation of social distancing.”
The model predicted around 72,433 deaths over the same period in its last update, which was released in late April — meaning its forecast death toll almost doubled in just one week.
Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the institute, told CNN on Monday the estimate changed in part because of how people were approaching social distancing.
One factor was people not following existing rules, and another was states relaxing their guidelines before the virus spread was sufficiently controlled. It also cited technical improvements to its calculations.
“We are seeing, of course, a rise in projected deaths for several reasons,” Mokdad said.
“One of them is increased mobility before the relaxation, premature relaxation of social distancing, we’re adding more presumptive deaths as well, and we’re seeing a lot of outbreaks in the Midwest, for example.”
In a statement, the institute said: “These projections are considerably higher than previous estimates, representing the combined effects of death model updates and formally incorporating the effect of changes in mobility and social distancing policies into transmission dynamics.”
The institute’s model has been used by the White House as part of its predictions for how the virus will hit the country.
But, as Vox reported, it has consistently predicted fewer deaths than other models. In April, the IHME model predicted a total of 60,000 deaths, revising that figure to the 72,000 figure on April 29 — the same day the US death toll rose above 60,000.
Vox reported that this lower figure has come about “largely because the IHME model projects that deaths will decline rapidly after the peak — an assumption that has not been borne out.”
The US is opening up, and more virus cases and deaths are predicted
More than half of the states in the US plan to start reopening by the end of this week, and lockdown measures have already started to reopen in some states.
But cases and deaths are still high, having only just started to enter a slow decline. Most states don’t meet basic standards of testing for the virus, which experts say is a prerequisite for safely easing a lockdown.
Compared to its last update, the model is now predicting more than 62,000 extra deaths in the US. These include:
- 7,817 more deaths in New York
- 8,798 more deaths in New Jersey
- 6,207 more deaths in Pennsylvania
- 2,063 more deaths in Massachusetts
- 3,160 more deaths in Michigan
The updates come as the White House repeatedly revises its predicted death toll upwards. Trump had previously estimated around 60,000 people would die in the US. On Sunday he said that as many as 100,000 Americans could die.
As of early on Tuesday morning, the US had record more than 1.1 million confirmed cases — far more than anywhere else in the world. It also had the world’s highest death toll, at over 68,000.
The New York Times reported on Monday that an internal Trump administration document shows that the daily death toll could almost double over the next month, from around 1,750 deaths a day now to around 3,000 deaths a day in June.
The White House told Insider in a statement that “this data is not reflective of any of the modeling done” by its coronavirus task force “or data that the task force has analyzed.”