About that forecast of 60,000 coronavirus deaths…

The past couple of days’ data suggest that, nationally, we may have reached an apex for this wave of the coronavirus.

So, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the longer term projections…

I think that there’s a lot of misunderstanding about the oft referenced IHME forecast which is currently pegged at slightly more than 60,000 (down from an original projection of about 80,000).

image

Two key points:

1. 60,000 is IHME’s best case …  it assumes that all states are locked down until Aug.4 (which isn’t going to happen) … even then, as presented on the above chart, the IHME confidence interval ranges from 60,000 (most likely) to 140,000 (worst case)

2. The forecast is the cumulative number of deaths until August 4 … it’s not the number of cumulative deaths over the life of the virus (or even this wave of the virus) … certainly, there will be additional deaths after August 4.

Important: Keep in mind that  “flattening the curve” doesn’t reduce the total number of projected deaths, it just spreads them over a longer time period.

Any reduction to that total will be due to the virus dying out naturally, introduction of a virus neutralizing vaccine or introduction of life-saving drugs or therapies.

For discussion purposes, let’s hang our hat on 60,000 and August 4..

Right now, we’re sitting at roughly 40,000 deaths to date (40,565 to be precise).

Pause for a moment and consider the implications of those last 2 sentences.

===============

Here’s some simple arithmetic…

There are roughly 100 days between now and August 4 … only 100 days.!

To hit the 60,000 forecast, we can only endure 20,000 more deaths over the 100 days.

That’s an average of 200 deaths per day … which is less than the 250 per day average for the flu (during the flu season) … and far below our recent running rate of about 2,000 new C-19 deaths each day.

At our current 2,000 per day running rate, we’d reach the 60,000 forecast in 10 days … with 90 days to go until the end forecast period.

Bottom line: The 60,000 forecast strikes me as highly optimistic … bordering on unrealistic.

The daily death tally will have to plummet very soon … down to near zero … for us to stay under 60,000.

I sure hope that happens, but I think that we need to hedge our bets.

So, I’m re-calibrating my expectations back to the original IHME most likely projection (84,000) … and wouldn’t be surprised if we end up in the vicinity of 100,000 — mid-way between IHME’s current low and high forecasts (see the “cone of uncertainty” on the chart above).

See also: What you need to know about the IHME Model

With 3 months to go, the arithmetic isn’t on our side to beat the 60,000 number … and, regardless, we’ll still be facing the C-19 related death count that happens after August 4.

There’s good reason to be optimistic, but fasten your seatbelts… this one’s not over yet.

32 Responses to “About that forecast of 60,000 coronavirus deaths…”

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