Top coronavirus model shows slight increase in estimated US deaths

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Less than a week after a leading coronavirus model lowered its estimate of how many Americans will die due to the novel coronavirus, the number ticked back up by nearly 6,000.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) on Friday had lowered the total deaths expected by Aug. 4 from 68,841 (with an estimate range of 30,188 to 175,965) to just over 60,308 (with an estimate range of 34,063 to 140,381), but on Tuesday the estimate was readjusted to 65,976 (with an estimate range of 45,375 to 124,129).

“Today’s release involves the second iteration of projecting when states may be able to consider easing currently implemented social distancing policies – if and only if – strong containment measures already have been instituted,” researchers said in the update.

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Researchers further stated that the projections indicate that 12 states may need to wait until at least June 8 or beyond before they fall below the 1 prevalent infection per 1,000,000 threshold. At least 47 states saw a shift in the prediction of the earliest week they could potentially consider easing distancing policies based on the new estimates.

Some experts have cautioned against using the model to formulate public policy, citing the constant change in projections.

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“That the IHME model keeps changing is evidence of its lack of reliability as a predictive tool,” said epidemiologist Ruth Etzioni of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, who has served on a search committee for IHME, to STAT News. “That it is being used for policy decisions and its results interpreted wrongly is a travesty unfolding before our eyes.”

But others, namely Dr. Deborah Birx, said the numbers change as a reflection of what America is doing in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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As of Wednesday, the U.S. had confirmed over 825,306 illnesses and at least 45,075 deaths.

Fox News' Adam Shaw contributed to this report.