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IHME Model Revised Again, Cutting Coronavirus Death Projection by Over 35 Percent

A healthcare worker walks in protective gear outside Wyckoff Heights Medical Center during the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus in New York City, April 2, 2020. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)

The researchers behind the University of Washington’s widely cited coronavirus model updated their projections for the second time this week, with death projections falling over 35 percent since Sunday and the U.S. peak moved to April 11.

Death projections in the IHME model, which was used by the White House to inform a warning that the country was facing a “best case scenario” of 100,000 and 200,000 deaths, have been cut by an additional 20,000 since Sunday’s initial revision to 81,766, to now project 60,415 total deaths in the U.S. The estimate of needed hospital beds was also cut nearly in half from 141,000 to 94,249, with needed ICU beds cut by nearly one-third to under 20,000.

Before Sunday’s revision, the model was projecting 93,531 total deaths and a total bed shortage of 87,674, good for reductions of 35.4 and 71.6 percent so far this week, respectively.

“We are expecting a foreboding few weeks for people in many parts of Europe. It seems likely the number of deaths will exceed our projections for the United States,” IHME director Dr. Christopher Murray admitted in a release of European data, pointing to effective social distancing in the U.S. as a measure that has resulted in positive developments.

IHME’s model uses information from other outbreaks around the world to predict what will happen in the U.S. and individual states. Dr. Debbie Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said last week that Murray’s projections were informing 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,” she told reporters.

Both Birx and fellow task-force member Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week that the country could face between 100,000 and 200,000 total deaths from the pandemic, regardless of whether Americans continue to comply with the most stringent social distancing guidelines.

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