UPDATED May 9, 2021, at 8:02 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

    10,978 deaths as of May 8

    Alaska

    349 deaths

    Arizona

    17,407 deaths

    Arkansas

    5,760 deaths

    California

    62,280 deaths

    Colorado

    6,355 deaths

    Connecticut

    8,137 deaths

    Delaware

    1,636 deaths

    District of Columbia

    1,110 deaths

    Florida

    35,700 deaths

    Georgia

    20,368 deaths

    Hawaii

    487 deaths

    Idaho

    2,061 deaths

    Illinois

    24,546 deaths

    Indiana

    13,405 deaths

    Iowa

    5,984 deaths

    Kansas

    5,017 deaths

    Kentucky

    6,578 deaths

    Louisiana

    10,433 deaths

    Maine

    795 deaths

    Maryland

    8,843 deaths

    Massachusetts

    17,676 deaths

    Michigan

    19,377 deaths

    Minnesota

    7,317 deaths

    Mississippi

    7,228 deaths

    Missouri

    9,224 deaths

    Montana

    1,592 deaths

    Nebraska

    2,252 deaths

    Nevada

    5,498 deaths

    New Hampshire

    1,314 deaths

    New Jersey

    25,791 deaths

    New Mexico

    4,098 deaths

    New York

    52,653 deaths

    North Carolina

    12,780 deaths

    North Dakota

    1,529 deaths

    Ohio

    19,428 deaths

    Oklahoma

    6,832 deaths

    Oregon

    2,528 deaths

    Pennsylvania

    26,484 deaths

    Rhode Island

    2,687 deaths

    South Carolina

    9,586 deaths

    South Dakota

    1,980 deaths

    Tennessee

    12,255 deaths

    Texas

    50,626 deaths

    Utah

    2,223 deaths

    Vermont

    249 deaths

    Virginia

    10,885 deaths

    Washington

    5,564 deaths

    West Virginia

    2,726 deaths

    Wisconsin

    7,652 deaths

    Wyoming

    710 deaths

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