UPDATED May 29, 2020, at 8:05 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 devastation 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 nine 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

    591 deaths as of May 28

    Alaska

    10 deaths

    Arizona

    860 deaths

    Arkansas

    125 deaths

    California

    3,993 deaths

    Colorado

    1,421 deaths

    Connecticut

    3,826 deaths

    Delaware

    345 deaths

    District of Columbia

    453 deaths

    Florida

    2,364 deaths

    Georgia

    1,973 deaths

    Hawaii

    17 deaths

    Idaho

    82 deaths

    Illinois

    5,186 deaths

    Indiana

    2,068 deaths

    Iowa

    506 deaths

    Kansas

    214 deaths

    Kentucky

    409 deaths

    Louisiana

    2,741 deaths

    Maine

    84 deaths

    Maryland

    2,428 deaths

    Massachusetts

    6,640 deaths

    Michigan

    5,372 deaths

    Minnesota

    977 deaths

    Mississippi

    693 deaths

    Missouri

    708 deaths

    Montana

    17 deaths

    Nebraska

    163 deaths

    Nevada

    406 deaths

    New Hampshire

    232 deaths

    New Jersey

    11,409 deaths

    New Mexico

    335 deaths

    New York

    29,529 deaths

    North Carolina

    876 deaths

    North Dakota

    57 deaths

    Ohio

    2,098 deaths

    Oklahoma

    325 deaths

    Oregon

    151 deaths

    Pennsylvania

    5,373 deaths

    Rhode Island

    677 deaths

    South Carolina

    470 deaths

    South Dakota

    54 deaths

    Tennessee

    356 deaths

    Texas

    1,611 deaths

    Utah

    106 deaths

    Vermont

    55 deaths

    Virginia

    1,338 deaths

    Washington

    1,106 deaths

    West Virginia

    74 deaths

    Wisconsin

    550 deaths

    Wyoming

    15 deaths

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