In Brief

Why a highly-cited coronavirus model now projects thousands fewer US deaths than before

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A model used by the White House to help forecast U.S. coronavirus deaths now projects thousands of fewer deaths than before.

The model, from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), previously estimated that total U.S. deaths from COVID-19 could reach nearly 84,000 by the beginning of August.

However, these projections were recently revised downward, to about 60,400 deaths by the beginning of August, according to data on the IHME website as of Thursday (April 9).

Part of the reason for decline in the death forecast is due to new data from places where the pandemic has already peaked, such as Spain and Italy, IHME said in a post on Twitter.

These places saw fast and high peaks in COVID-19 deaths, but "it didn't go as high as we expected," Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at IHME, told Fox News. In addition, new data from states such as California and Washington have also better informed the model and led to the revised estimates, Mokdad said.

"Our model is designed to be updated frequently to make sure that we're making the best use of all of the available data,"  Dr. Gregory Roth, associate professor in the Division of Cardiology and adjunct associate professor of Health Metrics Sciences at IHME, told CNN.

Modeling the pandemic in the U.S. is tricky, in part because the country will probably not have one peak, but a series of peaks in different places at different times,  The Washington Post reported. 

The model also has limitations — It assumes social-distancing measures stay in place through May, and it's forecasts only go through early August, even though the U.S. could see a second wave of infections in the fall, the Post reported.

Originally published on Live Science. 

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.