The model from the University of Washington, the one most frequently cited at White House press briefings, predicts daily deaths in the U.S. have peaked and will decline through the summer. The updated model on Friday shows that 26,487 to 155,315 Americans will die in a first wave stretching into the summer. A few days earlier, the same model had projected up to 136,401 deaths.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat whose state has had one of the deadliest outbreaks of COVID-19, has said his administration is doing its own modeling. It’s a collaboration between the state health department, Louisiana State University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a medical system and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
Edwards called it “heartening” to see the University of Washington’s updated model forecasting a lower death toll. But he said, “the numbers in that particular model don’t match up so well with what we’ve already experienced, so we’re trying to reconcile the assumptions that underlie that model with the assumptions that underlie ours.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has used his daily press briefings to explain how models have helped his administration forecast the pandemic’s impact on the Empire State. The Democrat has relied on projections from McKinsey & Company and Weill-Cornell medical center and consulted the World Health Organization.
But he has described the range of estimates as “maddening” and concedes that projections of an apex could change every day.
Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine, has seen an overreliance on modeling and confusion about the role it should play in responding to a pandemic. She said some of the most valuable information can be anecdotal, gleaned from people working on the front lines of the response.
“Models need to input parameters. You need to input a lot of assumptions about what you think is happening, and there’s still a lot we don’t know. We have to view numbers with skepticism,” said Dean, who is working with other experts on COVID-19 vaccine strategies.