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The forecasts of U.S. COVID-19 deaths, upon which the White House relies, imply that by August 4 the outbreak will be fully contained. By then, daily death rates will have dropped to zero, and total deaths will have reached 68,000. These same forecasts tell us that one month from now, the outbreak will be 96% contained, meaning that of the total eventual U.S. deaths from COVID-19, only 4% will occur after five weeks from now.
The source of the mortality forecasts just described is the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)
According to the IHME, the peak for new or daily deaths in the U.S. occurred on April 12; and on April 9, the forecast for April 12 was 2,212 (revised down from an earlier estimate of 3,130). Actual new deaths appear to have peaked at 2,087, and then declined for the next three days.
During the c-Span interview, Professor Mokdar explained that the IHME methodology for projecting deaths is based on models that are different from most other research groups, because of IHME’s emphasis on fitting the patterns of daily mortality observed in the experiences of other geographic areas such as Wuhan, Italy and Spain.
the research methodology employed by IHME implicitly builds in the containment measures being followed by the population, be those measures voluntary or government mandated. As a result, the number of deaths forecasted by the IHME model factors in the intensity of those measures.
Standard epidemic models, such as the Kermack-McKendrick model from 1927, emphasize that in the absence of vaccines and treatments, epidemics only conclude when herd immunity is achieved in the population.
methodologies such as those used by researchers at Imperial College London, herd immunity is not a salient part of IHME communications. The Imperia l College approach begins with herd immunity and then analyzes changes that result from containment measures. The IHME approach instead appears to focus on asking how behavioral patterns observed in Wuhan, Italy, and Spain carry over to the U.S.
Computations For Herd Immunity
For COVID-19, there are varying estimates of R0, ranging from 2.2 at the low end to 5.7, with the upper end of a 95% confidence interval being 8.9. There are also varying estimates of the death rate per infection. Evidence from the Diamond Princess, suggests a death rate of 0.99%. Economists Eichenbaum, Rebelo, and Trabandt report a similar statistic from South Korea, adjust the rate for age, and arrive at a value of 0.5%. The size of the U.S. population is approximately 330 million.
Taking the “best” case, with R0 equal to 2.2 and the death rate per infection equal to 0.5%, the estimated total number of deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 turns out to be 900,000. This is 13 times as great as the IMHE estimate.
Is a forecast of 68,841 eventual deaths unrealistically optimistic? To answer this question, consider what transmission rate is associated with that number of deaths. It will be below 2.2, but how much below?
The answer is 1.04, barely above the threshold of 1.0 associated with a zero infection growth rate: that is, 1.04 is a lot below 2.2!
What Makes The COVID-19 Mortality Forecasts Upon Which The White House Relies Seem So Low