The coronavirus has already taken at least 186,800 people in the U.S., according to information gathered by Johns Hopkins University. The model by IHME, whose models have previously been quoted by the White House and state officials, assumes that the fatality rate will more than double by Jan. 1 and could reach as high as 620,000 if states suddenly ease coronavirus restrictions and people ignore public health guidance.
“The worst is yet to come. I don’t think perhaps that’s a surprise, although I think there’s a natural tendency as we’re a little bit in the Northern hemisphere summer, to think maybe the epidemic is going away,” Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME, told reporters on a conference call Friday.
IHME released three new aspects based on different hypotheses: a worst-case scenario, a best-case scenario and a most likely scenario. The most likely scenario evaluates that the virus will kill 410,450 people in the U.S. by Jan. 1. The worst-case scenario, which presumes that restrictions and mask instruction will ease, points up to 620,028 people in the U.S. will die by then and the best-case scenario, which assumes universal masking, predicts that 288,380 people in the U.S. will die from COVID-19 in 2020.
“We are facing the prospect of a deadly December, especially in Europe, Central Asia, and the United States,” Murray said in a statement. “But the science is clear and the evidence irrefutable: mask-wearing, social distancing, and limits to social gatherings are vital to helping prevent transmission of the virus.”
Murray said daily new cases, both globally and in the U.S., may continue to flat out or even drop through September, but they will likely rise back in October.
“People in the Northern Hemisphere must be especially vigilant as winter approaches, since the coronavirus, like pneumonia, will be more prevalent in cold climates,” Murray said.
Youyang Gu, a data scientist who administers a rival Covid-19 forecasting model called Covid-19 Projections, said he has disbelief of IHEME's latest assumptions because they prolong too far into the future. IHME and Gu’s model are both used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to visualize the trajectory of the pandemic. The CDC gathers projections from dozens of major modelling groups and creates their own “ensemble forecast.”
“There’s just so much uncertainty... There are too many variables going on and no one really can know for sure what’s going to happen,” he said in a phone interview. “There is just really no data to work off of for a winter season.”