UPDATED Jan. 24, 2021, at 8:00 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

    6,657 deaths as of Jan. 23

    Alaska

    259 deaths

    Arizona

    12,170 deaths

    Arkansas

    4,563 deaths

    California

    36,846 deaths

    Colorado

    5,482 deaths

    Connecticut

    6,819 deaths

    Delaware

    1,036 deaths

    District of Columbia

    870 deaths

    Florida

    25,164 deaths

    Georgia

    13,246 deaths

    Hawaii

    335 deaths

    Idaho

    1,668 deaths

    Illinois

    20,645 deaths

    Indiana

    9,693 deaths

    Iowa

    4,486 deaths

    Kansas

    3,587 deaths

    Kentucky

    3,386 deaths

    Louisiana

    8,483 deaths

    Maine

    544 deaths

    Maryland

    6,837 deaths

    Massachusetts

    14,064 deaths

    Michigan

    15,181 deaths

    Minnesota

    6,131 deaths

    Mississippi

    5,752 deaths

    Missouri

    6,774 deaths

    Montana

    1,141 deaths

    Nebraska

    1,879 deaths

    Nevada

    4,011 deaths

    New Hampshire

    981 deaths

    New Jersey

    20,934 deaths

    New Mexico

    3,115 deaths

    New York

    42,134 deaths

    North Carolina

    8,586 deaths

    North Dakota

    1,436 deaths

    Ohio

    10,680 deaths

    Oklahoma

    3,231 deaths

    Oregon

    1,877 deaths

    Pennsylvania

    20,454 deaths

    Rhode Island

    2,083 deaths

    South Carolina

    6,479 deaths

    South Dakota

    1,696 deaths

    Tennessee

    8,819 deaths

    Texas

    34,725 deaths

    Utah

    1,582 deaths

    Vermont

    170 deaths

    Virginia

    6,079 deaths

    Washington

    4,114 deaths

    West Virginia

    1,872 deaths

    Wisconsin

    6,184 deaths

    Wyoming

    571 deaths

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