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Comparing the IHME COVID-19 health service utilization forecasting team's predicted cumulative COVID-19 deaths to actual deaths
  • Jinkinson Smith
Jinkinson Smith
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On March 30, 2020, the COVID-19 health service utilization forecasting team at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) published national and state-level projections of the number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States anticipated in the next four months (i.e. by July 30, 2020). At the time of writing (May 5, 2020), less than half of the time between that paper's publication and the date to which its predictions apply has passed, but comparing these predictions to the actual number of deaths reported so far is still useful in determining whether the models have significantly underestimated the number of deaths. Data regarding the cumulative number of predicted COVID-19 deaths per state was obtained from the IHME's published paper on medRxiv, as were the corresponding lower and upper bounds accompanying each state-level prediction. These predictions covered all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They were then compared to the reported total number of deaths based on data from the COVID Tracker (as of May 5, 2020). The findings indicate that most of the included regions still have not surpassed the number of COVID-19 deaths predicted that they would experience cumulatively, though seven states (Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Illinois) and the District of Columbia have already done so. Nationally, the total number of deaths reported in the United States as of May 5, 2020 is 62,698, which represents about 77% of the 81,111 deaths predicted in the United States by July 30, 2020. The total national number of deaths has increased at a rate of about 1,726 deaths per day since the IHME report was published. If this trend continues at the same rate until July 30, the number of Americans who would have died from COVID-19 at that point would be 213,689, more than twice the IHME prediction.