A closely watched model that predicts Covid-19 deaths is now forecasting there will be more than 201,000 deaths in the United States by October 1.
The projections continue to show that the fall is going to be difficult, with a sharp rise in daily deaths forecast in September and October.
Last week, the model, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, predicted 170,000 deaths for this same time period. The model was often cited by the White House early in the pandemic and is one of 19 models currently featured on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
As of today, the model projects that 201,129 people will die from Covid-19 in the US by October 1, with a possible range of 171,551 to 269,395 deaths. Ali Mokdad, one of the model’s creators, said they’ve raised the number of projected deaths for two reasons.
“Increased mobility and premature relaxation of social distancing led to more infections and we see it in Florida, Arizona, and other states. This means more projected deaths,” Mokdad told CNN in an email. “The second part is that we are now projecting to October 1st, which means that an increase in this wave will results in our starting point for the second wave (more seeding), so the second wave will be higher and we are capturing parts of that. Remember second wave starts at the end of August early September.”
Daily deaths are expected to decrease through June and July and remain relatively stable through August, but the model forecasts a sharp rise in deaths through September.
In the model, projected daily deaths nearly double from 743 on September 1 to 1,241 on October 1. The model’s uncertainty does increase the farther out it projects in time.
To make the model, analysts use cell phone data to show people’s increased mobility. As people move around, they have a higher chance of coming into contact with someone who is sick, but it isn’t entirely clear exactly how mobility corresponds with infections. Wearing a mask and physical distancing can reduce the rate of disease transmission.
IHME has also said that it looks at other factors in making the model, including the numbers of people who wear masks, air pollution figures, testing, pneumonia trends and population density, among other factors.
The IHME model has been criticized for some of its assumptions and predictions. At one point, it projected that deaths would stop in the summer, many experts at the time called that unrealistic. Since then, IHME has revised its methodology.
Mokdad said that it is important for people to remember to remain cautious about interacting with others.
“We all need to wear our masks and stay away from each other to reduce the circulation and to be in a better place at the beginning of the second wave,” Mokdad said.