UPDATED Aug. 8, 2020, at 8:01 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 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

    1,735 deaths as of Aug. 7

    Alaska

    25 deaths

    Arizona

    4,081 deaths

    Arkansas

    521 deaths

    California

    10,133 deaths

    Colorado

    1,857 deaths

    Connecticut

    4,441 deaths

    Delaware

    588 deaths

    District of Columbia

    589 deaths

    Florida

    7,927 deaths

    Georgia

    4,117 deaths

    Hawaii

    31 deaths

    Idaho

    229 deaths

    Illinois

    7,822 deaths

    Indiana

    3,023 deaths

    Iowa

    915 deaths

    Kansas

    379 deaths

    Kentucky

    764 deaths

    Louisiana

    4,207 deaths

    Maine

    124 deaths

    Maryland

    3,565 deaths

    Massachusetts

    8,709 deaths

    Michigan

    6,524 deaths

    Minnesota

    1,681 deaths

    Mississippi

    1,848 deaths

    Missouri

    1,324 deaths

    Montana

    70 deaths

    Nebraska

    345 deaths

    Nevada

    920 deaths

    New Hampshire

    419 deaths

    New Jersey

    15,849 deaths

    New Mexico

    675 deaths

    New York

    32,760 deaths

    North Carolina

    2,160 deaths

    North Dakota

    110 deaths

    Ohio

    3,652 deaths

    Oklahoma

    600 deaths

    Oregon

    348 deaths

    Pennsylvania

    7,296 deaths

    Rhode Island

    1,014 deaths

    South Carolina

    1,962 deaths

    South Dakota

    144 deaths

    Tennessee

    1,206 deaths

    Texas

    8,847 deaths

    Utah

    335 deaths

    Vermont

    58 deaths

    Virginia

    2,317 deaths

    Washington

    1,672 deaths

    West Virginia

    127 deaths

    Wisconsin

    990 deaths

    Wyoming

    28 deaths

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