UPDATED Jan. 25, 2021, at 9:15 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 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

    6,660 deaths as of Jan. 24

    Alaska

    259 deaths

    Arizona

    12,238 deaths

    Arkansas

    4,606 deaths

    California

    37,121 deaths

    Colorado

    5,505 deaths

    Connecticut

    6,819 deaths

    Delaware

    1,041 deaths

    District of Columbia

    872 deaths

    Florida

    25,293 deaths

    Georgia

    13,250 deaths

    Hawaii

    341 deaths

    Idaho

    1,669 deaths

    Illinois

    20,680 deaths

    Indiana

    9,716 deaths

    Iowa

    4,487 deaths

    Kansas

    3,587 deaths

    Kentucky

    3,421 deaths

    Louisiana

    8,565 deaths

    Maine

    544 deaths

    Maryland

    6,865 deaths

    Massachusetts

    14,133 deaths

    Michigan

    15,181 deaths

    Minnesota

    6,163 deaths

    Mississippi

    5,772 deaths

    Missouri

    6,781 deaths

    Montana

    1,151 deaths

    Nebraska

    1,879 deaths

    Nevada

    4,026 deaths

    New Hampshire

    987 deaths

    New Jersey

    20,951 deaths

    New Mexico

    3,145 deaths

    New York

    42,325 deaths

    North Carolina

    8,695 deaths

    North Dakota

    1,436 deaths

    Ohio

    10,711 deaths

    Oklahoma

    3,279 deaths

    Oregon

    1,880 deaths

    Pennsylvania

    20,532 deaths

    Rhode Island

    2,083 deaths

    South Carolina

    6,547 deaths

    South Dakota

    1,705 deaths

    Tennessee

    8,859 deaths

    Texas

    34,911 deaths

    Utah

    1,595 deaths

    Vermont

    170 deaths

    Virginia

    6,078 deaths

    Washington

    4,114 deaths

    West Virginia

    1,895 deaths

    Wisconsin

    6,190 deaths

    Wyoming

    571 deaths

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