UPDATED Feb. 26, 2021, 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 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

    9,831 deaths as of Feb. 25

    Alaska

    290 deaths

    Arizona

    15,814 deaths

    Arkansas

    5,397 deaths

    California

    51,395 deaths

    Colorado

    5,925 deaths

    Connecticut

    7,614 deaths

    Delaware

    1,406 deaths

    District of Columbia

    1,005 deaths

    Florida

    30,478 deaths

    Georgia

    17,199 deaths

    Hawaii

    434 deaths

    Idaho

    1,850 deaths

    Illinois

    22,607 deaths

    Indiana

    12,494 deaths

    Iowa

    5,438 deaths

    Kansas

    4,681 deaths

    Kentucky

    4,570 deaths

    Louisiana

    9,561 deaths

    Maine

    701 deaths

    Maryland

    7,805 deaths

    Massachusetts

    15,978 deaths

    Michigan

    16,436 deaths

    Minnesota

    6,518 deaths

    Mississippi

    6,613 deaths

    Missouri

    8,251 deaths

    Montana

    1,350 deaths

    Nebraska

    2,063 deaths

    Nevada

    4,933 deaths

    New Hampshire

    1,163 deaths

    New Jersey

    23,147 deaths

    New Mexico

    3,671 deaths

    New York

    47,264 deaths

    North Carolina

    11,137 deaths

    North Dakota

    1,471 deaths

    Ohio

    17,125 deaths

    Oklahoma

    4,302 deaths

    Oregon

    2,204 deaths

    Pennsylvania

    23,840 deaths

    Rhode Island

    2,496 deaths

    South Carolina

    8,443 deaths

    South Dakota

    1,872 deaths

    Tennessee

    11,321 deaths

    Texas

    43,085 deaths

    Utah

    1,890 deaths

    Vermont

    203 deaths

    Virginia

    7,963 deaths

    Washington

    4,942 deaths

    West Virginia

    2,290 deaths

    Wisconsin

    6,994 deaths

    Wyoming

    671 deaths

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