New model predicts more than 200,000 COVID-19 related deaths by October 1st

Posted at 6:18 PM, Jun 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 19:18:20-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A new model by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is now projecting more than 200,000 COVID-19 in the United States by October 1st.

The newest version of the model is projecting 30,000 more deaths than its model last week. Currently there are more than 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. resulting in more than 116,000 deaths so far. If the new model is correct, by October 1st, the country will be averaging 840 deaths a day since the first confirmed COVID-19 related death in the United States on February 6th.

“It’s important to remember that data are important and we have a lot of scientists out there that are looking at it and trying to find things that are real,” said Dr. Anne O’Keefe, a senior epidemiologist with the Douglas County Health Department. “We’re not trying to predict something and see how well we predicted it. What we’re trying to do is find the factors that are important for predicting those outcomes so we can possibly change those things and lower that count.”

She said states opening back up and loosing restrictions may be playing a role in the increased cases in the model.

“Sure, I think that is something that affects numbers of cases of disease,” O’Keefe said.

“There’s an old saying that old models are incorrect, some are more useful and interesting than others,” said Dr. Mark Rupp, the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Nebraska Medicine.

Rupp said people should take the models with a grain of salt and examine them carefully. He added the IHME models have been wrong in the past.

“I do think it gives a scenario of what could unfold,” Rupp said. “Obviously there are a lot of variables at play here and we need to make sure the 200,000 deaths before October doesn’t become true.”

In Nebraska, cases are slowly on the decline. On Monday the state reported 126 positive cases, a significant drop from the more than 400 cases the state saw four weeks ago.

“Within the state as a whole over the last couple of weeks we’ve started to see numbers drifting downward steadily and we’ve seen a little bit of a lag but a similar pattern in Douglas County which is gratifying,” Rupp said.

The coronavirus pandemic is far from over. If this new model is an indicator, communities are far from out of the rough.

“We’re guardedly optimistic, it doesn’t seem to be going up right now but that can change,” O’Keefe said.

“The virus is still in the community and still circulating widely and if we go back to business as usual we will see a swing upward in cases,” Rupp said.

Both Dr. Rupp and Dr. O’Keefe said it is crucial for people to still wear masks when interacting with others and said people should still continue to wash their hands and practice social distancing. Doing these types of mitigating measures could help lessen the severity of confirmed deaths across the country.

Watch reporter Phil Bergman’s story in the above video.