UPDATED Oct. 26, 2020, at 8:55 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

    2,866 deaths as of Oct. 25

    Alaska

    68 deaths

    Arizona

    5,874 deaths

    Arkansas

    1,812 deaths

    California

    17,358 deaths

    Colorado

    2,223 deaths

    Connecticut

    4,577 deaths

    Delaware

    681 deaths

    District of Columbia

    642 deaths

    Florida

    16,429 deaths

    Georgia

    7,809 deaths

    Hawaii

    212 deaths

    Idaho

    573 deaths

    Illinois

    9,775 deaths

    Indiana

    4,130 deaths

    Iowa

    1,635 deaths

    Kansas

    956 deaths

    Kentucky

    1,407 deaths

    Louisiana

    5,837 deaths

    Maine

    146 deaths

    Maryland

    4,096 deaths

    Massachusetts

    9,864 deaths

    Michigan

    7,522 deaths

    Minnesota

    2,402 deaths

    Mississippi

    3,255 deaths

    Missouri

    2,820 deaths

    Montana

    297 deaths

    Nebraska

    596 deaths

    Nevada

    1,744 deaths

    New Hampshire

    473 deaths

    New Jersey

    16,285 deaths

    New Mexico

    967 deaths

    New York

    33,422 deaths

    North Carolina

    4,157 deaths

    North Dakota

    456 deaths

    Ohio

    5,206 deaths

    Oklahoma

    1,249 deaths

    Oregon

    653 deaths

    Pennsylvania

    8,647 deaths

    Rhode Island

    1,177 deaths

    South Carolina

    3,802 deaths

    South Dakota

    375 deaths

    Tennessee

    3,131 deaths

    Texas

    17,955 deaths

    Utah

    572 deaths

    Vermont

    58 deaths

    Virginia

    3,575 deaths

    Washington

    2,296 deaths

    West Virginia

    425 deaths

    Wisconsin

    1,778 deaths

    Wyoming

    68 deaths

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