UPDATED Sep. 26, 2020, at 8:00 AM

Where The Latest COVID-19 Models Think We're Headed — And Why They Disagree

Models predicting the potential spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have become a fixture of American life. Yet each model tells a different story about the loss of life to come, making it hard to know which one is “right.” But COVID-19 models aren’t made to be unquestioned oracles. They’re not trying to tell us one precise future, but rather the range of possibilities given the facts on the ground.

One of their more sober tasks is predicting the number of Americans who will die due to COVID-19. FiveThirtyEight — with the help of data compiled by the COVID-19 Forecast Hub — has assembled 13 models published by scientists to illustrate possible trajectories of the pandemic’s death toll. In doing so, we hope to make them more accessible, as well as highlight how the assumptions underlying the models can lead to vastly different estimates. Here are the models’ U.S. fatality projections for the coming weeks.

Forecasts like these are useful because they help us understand the most likely outcomes as well as best- and worst-case possibilities — and they can help policymakers make decisions that can lead us closer to those best-case outcomes.

And looking at multiple models is better than looking at just one because it's difficult to know which model will match reality the closest. Even when models disagree, understanding why they are different can give us valuable insight.

Coronavirus is hard to understand. FiveThirtyEight can help.

How do the models differ?

Each model makes different assumptions about properties of the novel coronavirus, such as how infectious it is and the rate at which people die once infected. They also use different types of math behind the scenes to make their projections. And perhaps most importantly, they make different assumptions about the amount of contact we should expect between people in the near future.

Understanding the underlying assumptions that each model is currently using can help us understand why some forecasts are more optimistic or pessimistic than others.

    State-by-state breakdown

    Below are individual forecasts for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

    Alabama

    2,491 deaths as of Sept. 25

    Alaska

    52 deaths

    Arizona

    5,587 deaths

    Arkansas

    1,266 deaths

    California

    15,516 deaths

    Colorado

    2,034 deaths

    Connecticut

    4,501 deaths

    Delaware

    631 deaths

    District of Columbia

    623 deaths

    Florida

    13,915 deaths

    Georgia

    6,874 deaths

    Hawaii

    127 deaths

    Idaho

    458 deaths

    Illinois

    8,807 deaths

    Indiana

    3,566 deaths

    Iowa

    1,312 deaths

    Kansas

    635 deaths

    Kentucky

    1,149 deaths

    Louisiana

    5,444 deaths

    Maine

    140 deaths

    Maryland

    3,917 deaths

    Massachusetts

    9,373 deaths

    Michigan

    7,027 deaths

    Minnesota

    2,046 deaths

    Mississippi

    2,894 deaths

    Missouri

    1,991 deaths

    Montana

    170 deaths

    Nebraska

    468 deaths

    Nevada

    1,573 deaths

    New Hampshire

    438 deaths

    New Jersey

    16,097 deaths

    New Mexico

    865 deaths

    New York

    33,122 deaths

    North Carolina

    3,409 deaths

    North Dakota

    219 deaths

    Ohio

    4,734 deaths

    Oklahoma

    993 deaths

    Oregon

    542 deaths

    Pennsylvania

    8,065 deaths

    Rhode Island

    1,107 deaths

    South Carolina

    3,297 deaths

    South Dakota

    216 deaths

    Tennessee

    2,352 deaths

    Texas

    15,610 deaths

    Utah

    448 deaths

    Vermont

    58 deaths

    Virginia

    3,134 deaths

    Washington

    2,100 deaths

    West Virginia

    335 deaths

    Wisconsin

    1,274 deaths

    Wyoming

    50 deaths

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