UPDATED Jan. 19, 2021, at 9:10 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 11 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

    6,121 deaths as of Jan. 18

    Alaska

    229 deaths

    Arizona

    11,265 deaths

    Arkansas

    4,343 deaths

    California

    33,746 deaths

    Colorado

    5,386 deaths

    Connecticut

    6,670 deaths

    Delaware

    1,016 deaths

    District of Columbia

    857 deaths

    Florida

    24,274 deaths

    Georgia

    12,360 deaths

    Hawaii

    321 deaths

    Idaho

    1,607 deaths

    Illinois

    20,118 deaths

    Indiana

    9,340 deaths

    Iowa

    4,324 deaths

    Kansas

    3,511 deaths

    Kentucky

    3,167 deaths

    Louisiana

    8,253 deaths

    Maine

    514 deaths

    Maryland

    6,596 deaths

    Massachusetts

    13,705 deaths

    Michigan

    14,686 deaths

    Minnesota

    6,007 deaths

    Mississippi

    5,524 deaths

    Missouri

    6,470 deaths

    Montana

    1,093 deaths

    Nebraska

    1,842 deaths

    Nevada

    3,784 deaths

    New Hampshire

    933 deaths

    New Jersey

    20,458 deaths

    New Mexico

    2,958 deaths

    New York

    41,173 deaths

    North Carolina

    8,083 deaths

    North Dakota

    1,406 deaths

    Ohio

    10,281 deaths

    Oklahoma

    2,994 deaths

    Oregon

    1,803 deaths

    Pennsylvania

    19,330 deaths

    Rhode Island

    2,005 deaths

    South Carolina

    6,248 deaths

    South Dakota

    1,667 deaths

    Tennessee

    8,430 deaths

    Texas

    32,711 deaths

    Utah

    1,500 deaths

    Vermont

    163 deaths

    Virginia

    5,739 deaths

    Washington

    3,903 deaths

    West Virginia

    1,784 deaths

    Wisconsin

    5,926 deaths

    Wyoming

    522 deaths

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