Coronavirus Models Are Way Off. But Why?

Fareed Zakaria looks at the latest downward projections
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2020 5:30 PM CDT
Why Coronavirus Models Are So Far Off
In this Thursday, March 26, 2020 photo, a member of the Iranian army walks past rows of beds at a temporary 2,000-bed hospital for COVID-19 coronavirus patients set up by the army at the International Exhibition Center in northern Tehran, Iran.   (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Dire predictions about the coronavirus are easing a little—or let's face it, a lot—and Fareed Zakaria wants to know why. Writing this week in the Washington Post, the CNN host looks at projected US fatalities and current hospitalization rates, both of which are way down. Just last month, he notes, the White House estimated 100,000 to 240,000 US deaths, but Anthony Fauci now says that will drop, and a prominent University of Washington model predicts a death toll of 60,415 by June 1 if social distancing is maintained. "That's on par with the number of people estimated to have died of the flu in the 2019-2020 season," writes Zakaria. "What is going on?"

Meanwhile, hospitalization rates in California, Louisiana, and even New York have plummeted from original projections. Zakaria says Stanford University scholars might have an explanation for all this—that the lack of early widespread testing hid the number of mild or asymptomatic cases. Some studies say 75% to 80% could be asymptomatic, meaning most people who get infected "never get to a clinic and never get counted," writes Zakaria. "We have shut down the economy based on models, understandably worried about worst-case scenarios. But models are only as good as the data that shapes them. And reopening the economy will depend crucially on mass testing." Click for his full piece. (Fauci just predicted "a real degree of normality" by November.)

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