People Begin Moving About as States Open Up, Leading IHME to

|May 10|magazine10 min read

SEATTLE, May 10, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- As some states continue to ease social distancing mandates and new data are acquired on people's movements, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington is projecting a slight increase in expected COVID-19 deaths in the US.

Today's updated death projections total 137,184 cumulative COVID-19 deaths (estimate range of 102,783 to 223,489) through the beginning of August. This follows the Institute's May 4 forecast of 134,475 deaths.

"The increase is explained primarily by people's movements, as captured in anonymous mobility data from cell phones," said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray. "We're also seeing fewer deaths expected in some states; however, we're now forecasting slower downward trajectories in deaths after states hit their peaks in daily deaths."

Murray noted that IHME's models are not yet predicting a resurgence or "return to exponential growth" of the epidemic in the US. As always, IHME's forecasts will change as the Institute acquires and analyzes new data. In addition, the organization's modeling assumes that mandates currently in place will stay in place until infections are minimized.

Other positive indications come from increasing testing, the presumption that those testing positive are self-isolating, as well as increases in temperature. IHME has found that when the outdoor temperature increases 1 degree Celsius, there is evidence the rate of virus transmission drops between 2% and 3%.

The findings also show that, over the last few weeks, five states – Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Georgia – have seen at least a 20 percentage point increase in mobility patterns. In addition, 13 states have experienced between a 15 and 20 percentage point increase: Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

"While at least some of these patterns may be related to formal easing of social distancing policies, this upward trend in movement began in several places long before state-level mandates were relaxed," Murray said. "Unless and until we see accelerated testing, contact tracing, isolating people who test positive, and widespread use of masks in public, there is a significant likelihood of new infections."

Among other new findings:

  • New York: Forecasting 31,620 deaths (estimate range of 30,105 to 33,954) through August 4, down from May 4 projection of 32,132 deaths
  • Michigan: Forecasting 6,217 deaths (estimate range of 5,394 to 8,036) through August 4, down from May 4 projection of 7,080 deaths
  • California: Forecasting 6,086 deaths (estimate range of 4,187 to 9,855) through August 4, up from May 4 projection of 4,666 deaths
  • Texas: Forecasting 2,567 deaths (estimate range of 1,513 to 5,487) through August 4, down from May 4 forecast of 3,632
  • Florida: Forecasting 5,440 deaths (estimate range of 3,027 to 11,592) through August, up from May 4 projection of 3,971 deaths
  • New Jersey: Forecasting 14,752 deaths (estimate range of 12,255 to 19,594) through August 4, down from May 4 projection of 16,044 deaths
  • Georgia: Forecasting 3,596 deaths (estimate range of 2,139 to 7,078) through August 4, down from May 4 projection of 4,913

IHME's current forecasting lasts through August 4. Subsequent projections likely will extend into October and will include potential effects of students returning to school. Today's announcement covers only the US and individual states. New forecasts on other nations will be forthcoming.

The new death projections for the US and all states are available in the Institute's COVID-19 data visualization at https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america

IHME is grateful to the Microsoft AI for Health program for supporting our hosting of COVID-19 data visualizations in the Azure cloud. 

About the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation 
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research organization at the University of Washington School of Medicine that provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world's most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them. IHME is committed to transparency and makes this information widely available so that policymakers have the evidence they need to make informed decisions on allocating resources to improve population health.

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SOURCE Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation