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Coronavirus Model Used by White House Changed to Reflect Decrease in Projected Fatalities

Healthcare workers wheel the body of a deceased person past construction workers during the outbreak of the coronavirus in Brooklyn, New York City, April 6, 2020. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)

A coronavirus projection used by the White House to warn that the country could face between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths in a “best case scenario” has dramatically reduced its estimates, cutting the number of hospital beds needed by 58 percent and the death forecast by 12 percent.

The IHME model, produced by the University of Washington, updated its numbers overnight to show that projected deaths decreased from 93,531 to 81,766, and the projected total bed shortage fell from 87,674 to 36,654, after projected needed hospital beds fell 45 percent from 262,000 to 141,000 and needed ICU beds decreased 26 percent from almost 39,700 to 29,200. While the model remained unchanged in estimating a peak of April 15, it also moved forward its projected date of fewer than 200 daily deaths from June 3 to May 18.

A state-by-state breakdown suggested that a number of the U.S.’s hotspots were gaining ground on the virus, with death projections falling for California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Washington State, and others. New Jersey’s projection rose dramatically from 2,100 to 9,690, while the projection for Illinois remained essentially the same.

The University of Washington model, led by Professor Chris Murray, has been widely cited and circulated to illustrate the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak. Its estimates were also used by Dr. Debbie Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, to inform her own models.

“If you go on [Murray’s] website, you can see the concern that we had with the growing number of potential fatalities,” Birx told reporters last week.

The model also helped inform a projection made by Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the task for and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, that the country would face “a best case scenario” of 100,000 to 200,000 coronavirus deaths.

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