UPDATED Aug. 3, 2020, at 7:46 PM

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 15 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

    1,627 deaths as of Aug. 2

    Alaska

    24 deaths

    Arizona

    3,765 deaths

    Arkansas

    464 deaths

    California

    9,396 deaths

    Colorado

    1,844 deaths

    Connecticut

    4,432 deaths

    Delaware

    585 deaths

    District of Columbia

    584 deaths

    Florida

    7,084 deaths

    Georgia

    3,840 deaths

    Hawaii

    26 deaths

    Idaho

    197 deaths

    Illinois

    7,714 deaths

    Indiana

    2,975 deaths

    Iowa

    878 deaths

    Kansas

    361 deaths

    Kentucky

    742 deaths

    Louisiana

    4,007 deaths

    Maine

    123 deaths

    Maryland

    3,515 deaths

    Massachusetts

    8,638 deaths

    Michigan

    6,457 deaths

    Minnesota

    1,654 deaths

    Mississippi

    1,703 deaths

    Missouri

    1,276 deaths

    Montana

    61 deaths

    Nebraska

    332 deaths

    Nevada

    832 deaths

    New Hampshire

    417 deaths

    New Jersey

    15,836 deaths

    New Mexico

    654 deaths

    New York

    32,710 deaths

    North Carolina

    1,983 deaths

    North Dakota

    105 deaths

    Ohio

    3,529 deaths

    Oklahoma

    550 deaths

    Oregon

    326 deaths

    Pennsylvania

    7,223 deaths

    Rhode Island

    1,007 deaths

    South Carolina

    1,777 deaths

    South Dakota

    135 deaths

    Tennessee

    1,073 deaths

    Texas

    6,878 deaths

    Utah

    311 deaths

    Vermont

    57 deaths

    Virginia

    2,218 deaths

    Washington

    1,596 deaths

    West Virginia

    117 deaths

    Wisconsin

    948 deaths

    Wyoming

    26 deaths

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