Virus model sees near-doubling of US deaths

A prominent US pandemic model on Monday significantly increased its coronavirus death forecast after parts of the country began reopening.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) now foresees 134,475 deaths by August 4, up from 72,433 projected in an April 29 estimate.

On Monday the United States had recorded around 68,000 deaths linked to COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

Previously criticized for being too optimistic, the model’s projections will now be more in line with those of other estimates, several of which have already forecast that the United States would exceed 100,000 deaths by the beginning of June.

IHME’s new estimate takes into account the lifting in some states of restrictions on movement and gatherings, as well as residents’ mobility during confinement, thanks to anonymous data provided by phone apps and other platforms.

“The social distancing that has occurred has actually, in most settings, been quite effective,” said Christopher Murray, director of IHME based in Seattle at the University of Washington.

“There have been many, many states where mobility is starting to go up, even before the social distancing mandates are coming off. So we’re seeing a rise in mobility” which over the last seven to 10 days “is likely leading to some increased transmission,” Murray told reporters.

A government document cited on Monday by two US newspapers forecasts that new coronavirus cases will surge to around 200,000 per day by June 1 and the daily death toll will rise to roughly 3,000.

The White House said the data did not reflect modeling or analysis done by the president’s coronavirus task force. (AFP)