About that forecast of 2 million coronavirus deaths in the US…

During yesterday’s press conference, Dr. Deborah Birx opened with remarks about a study that was generated doomsday headlines of over 2 million covid-related deaths in the U.S.

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Dr. Brix says “This is really quite important” so let’s drill down…

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First, the text of what Dr. Birx said on the topic.

I’m sure you have seen the recent report out of the U.K. [by epidemiological data scientists at the Imperial College in London] about them adjusting completely their [fatality forecasts] and their needs.

This is really quite important.

If you remember, that was the report that says there would be 500,000 deaths in the U.K. and 2.2 million deaths in the United States.

They’ve adjusted that number in the U.K. to 20,000. Half a million to 20,000.

We are looking at that in great detail to understand that adjustment.

The predictions of the model don’t match the reality on the ground.

Italy should have close to 400,000 deaths. They are not close to achieving that.

My initial reaction: Data modeler went wild … caused hysteria … and is now backing off his forecast.

Neil Ferguson — the lead researcher — takes exception to that assessment.

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Specifically, Ferguson points out that the doomsday numbers (2.2 million US deaths; 500,000 in the UK) was the model’s “do nothing” case.  Just letting the virus run wild — essentially unchecked.

But, his report also presented more realistic scenarios that assume actions that could suppress the spread, including:

  • Case Isolation: infected individuals stay at home for a week.
  • Home Quarantine: all household members of an infected individual stay at home for two weeks.
  • ·Social distancing of the elderly: those over 70 reduce social contacts (75 percent compliance assumed).
  • Social distancing of everybody: everybody other than students reduce social contacts (75 percent compliance assumed).
  • School closure: 75 percent of schools are closed.

You know, the initiatives that have been implemented here in the U.S.

In fact, the study’s “best case” scenario — that assumes all of the above initiatives are effectively implemented reduces the UK’s death toll down to 20,000.

Projecting that ratio to the US translates to about 80,000 deaths in the US … and number that benchmarks to the worst seasonal flu years.

The bad news: 80,000 is still an unacceptably high number.

The good news: The heroic efforts in the US to mitigate the COVID effects are likely to cut that number in half … or better.

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Bottom line: The data modelers were on the right track — clearly laid out their assumptions and ran multiple scenarios.

As usual, the media headlined the worst case … and, didn’t qualify it as a worst case scenario.

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Sources:

The Imperial College Report

“Inside the model that may be making US, UK rethink coronavirus control”  … an excellent analysis of the Imperial College model by ARS- Technica

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One Response to “About that forecast of 2 million coronavirus deaths in the US…”

  1. Mike Gehringer Says:

    Oof… this didn’t age well…

    The bad news: 80,000 is still an unacceptably high number.

    The good news: The heroic efforts in the US to mitigate the COVID effects are likely to cut that number in half … or better.

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