Rising Mobility in Most States and the Easing of Social Distancing Point to
Increases in Personal Contact that Promote Transmission of the Disease
SEATTLE (May 4, 2020) – New COVID-19 forecasts for the US project nearly 135,000 deaths through the beginning of August, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
The revised projections reflect rising mobility in most US states as well as the easing of social distancing measures expected in 31 states by May 11, indicating that growing contacts among people will promote transmission of the coronavirus. Increases in testing and contact tracing, along with warming seasonal temperatures – factors that could help slow transmission – do not offset rising mobility, thereby fueling a significant increase in projected deaths.
IHME’s model assumes that mandates that are currently in place will stay in place until infections are minimized.
The projected US deaths through early August total 134,475, with a range of 95,092 to 242,890.
“In each state, the evolution of the epidemic depends on the balance between relaxed social distancing, increasing temperature, and rising rates of testing and contact tracing,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray. “We expect that the epidemic in many states will now extend through the summer.”
By wearing masks, staying six feet away from others, and washing hands, individuals can lower the risk of transmission.
Starting today, IHME forecasts for the US are based on a new hybrid model. The model IHME released on March 26 to estimate hospital resource demand is now combined with a disease transmission model. The new model captures the impact of changes in social distancing mandates, changes in mobility, and the impact of testing and contact tracing. It enables predicting a resurgence if and when more social distancing mandates are relaxed.
“This new model is the basis for the sobering new estimate of US deaths,” Murray said. “The model will allow for regular updating as new data are released on cases, hospitalizations, deaths, testing, and mobility. It can also be used to identify what may be the trajectory to progressively relax social distancing while still limiting the risk of large-scale resurgence.”
Regarding individual states, IHME is forecasting the following:
- Texas: Forecasting 3,632 deaths through August 4, with a range of 1,470 to 10,721
- Georgia: Forecasting 4,913 deaths through August 4, with a range of 2,013 to 12,125
- New York: Forecasting 32,132 deaths through August 4, with a range of 29,248 to 37,136
The latest US forecasts are based on four key determinants estimated from data: mobility, population density, testing, and temperature.
“Our understanding of the effect of temperature on transmission of the virus is rapidly evolving,” Murray said. “At the moment, we believe that the effects of temperature on transmission are important, yet minimal. As we move into summer and temperatures rise, we will learn more and will revise our projections if it is statistically relevant.”
Although the new hybrid model has not yet been applied to European forecasts, today’s results also show increases in expected deaths in Europe:
- UK: 40,555 deaths (up from 27,100) projected through August 4, with a range of 29,657 to 74,539
- Italy: 31,458 deaths (up from 27,777) projected through August 4, with a range of 29,605 to 34,969
- France: 28,859 deaths (up from 25,096) projected through August 4, with a range of 25,280 to 38,798
- Spain: 27,727 deaths (up from 25, 231) projected through August 4, with a range of 25,720 to 32,130
- Germany: 8,543 deaths (up from 6,922) projected through August 4, with a range of 7,006 to 12,150
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For details on all findings, please see the accompanying estimation update and FAQ on our website.
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IHME is grateful to the Microsoft AI for Health program for supporting our hosting of COVID-19 data visualizations in the Azure cloud.
About the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research organization at the University of Washington School of Medicine that provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them. IHME is committed to transparency and makes this information widely available so that policymakers have the evidence they need to make informed decisions on allocating resources to improve population health.