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Good Politico Article on Trump And The IHME Coronavirus Model: Too Optimistic In Their Predictions.

4 min read

Politico has what I think is a good article on the overly optimistic coronavirus pandemic model proposed by the IHME and the Trump Administrations latching onto this model.  While not part of this article, Trump was once again asked by a reporter if he felt responsible for the 50,000 coronavirus deaths so far, and, basically, Trump wants a medal for keeping the number of deaths under 100,000.  Therefore, I think it is important to go into the underlying assumptions of the IHME model and the rather obvious reason why Trump is bear hugging it to his chest — less than 100,000 American dead from coronavirus is a victory, at least according to the Sociopath in Chief.

As coronavirus cases climbed daily by the thousands and the nation entered its second month of an economic standstill, President Donald Trump latched onto a sign of hope: A pandemic model closely followed by political leaders and public health specialists projected the virus would kill as few as 60,000 Americans, a figure far below what officials previously feared.

The new April forecast signaled the worst would soon be over, with some states effectively ending their bout with coronavirus as early as the end of the month. According to the model’s bell-shaped curves, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide were set to drop off nearly as quickly as they rose.

Trump swiftly adopted the projection from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation as his newest measure of success — while top administration health officials including infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci and coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx touted the lower figure as a clear indication the U.S. was winning its fight with the disease.
“It looks like we’ll be at about a 60,000 mark, which is 40,000 less than the lowest number thought of,” Trump said during a news briefing on Sunday, April 19, adding the next day that “the low number was supposed to be 100,000 people. We could end up at 50 to 60.”

That’s not going to happen. More than 50,000 Americans are dead from the coronavirus already, following several days during which the nation’s death toll routinely topped 2,000. The U.S. is now expected to blow past the 60,000 mark around the beginning of May, earlier than the IHME model had projected and with less of the dramatic leveling-off that its forecast had initially baked in.

As with finding out that UV light and disinfectants kill the coronavirus on surfaces and the mental “leap” to inject those treatments into the human body, Trump took the IHME model predicting that  coronavirus infections and deaths dropping off suddenly by the end of April as Gospel.  As Politico notes, we are going to be at 60,000 dead or more by the end of April.  And the number of deaths each day is not dropping off as the model predicted.

The problems with the IHME model:

At the center of those concerns is a key element, the IHME model’s critics say. The projection makes no attempt to account for the virus’ defining characteristics, such as how easily it spreads or how long someone can be infected before they show symptoms.

Instead, it relies on data from cities already hit by the coronavirus, including in Italy and China, and matches the U.S. to a similar curve. The result is a projection that’s easily digestible and more precise in its predictions than most infectious disease models, but far more volatile as the situation plays out on the ground.

And another problem that at least one of the authors of the model admits now:

But the White House’s coronavirus task force has in recent conversations with the group focused on a new challenge: How to navigate a gradual reopening of the country, representing a new phase that will be far more difficult to model.

“That just opens up a whole new set of challenges,” Murray said, noting that Georgia — whose governor, Brian Kemp, has called for businesses to reopen far sooner than his counterparts in other states — hasn’t even hit its coronavirus peak under the IHME model.

“If Georgia’s going to have a resurgence, what about the neighboring states?” Murray said.

And there is more:

The IHME, he said, will update its estimates next week to reflect a gloomier future amid indications that states like Georgia will begin to reopen — and boost the odds of a prolonged pandemic.

“We had presumed, perhaps naively, that given the magnitude of the epidemic, most states would stick to their social distancing until the end of May,” Murray said. “That is not happening.”

In short, Trump was told that coronavirus infections and deaths would peak and drop off dramatically by end of April.  Therefore, states could relax their shelter in place orders and life could get back to normal in May.  Yeah, that is still within the 2nd Quarter of the year when voters make their evaluations of how the economy will be for the rest of year and around election time!  Way less death than 100,000 and an economy reopened!

Unfortunately, you can see that even Politico is noticing that the IHME model is not capturing what is actually happening with this coronavirus pandemic.

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