Why Projections Went Down

This bears repeating because people don’t seem to be getting it.

Strict mitigation efforts were built into all the IHME models from the start.

This is why it makes zero sense to say that “the number of projected deaths dropped because of the lockdowns.” Lockdowns were always part of the model. 200,000 deaths were expected WITH the quarantine.

The number of people who keep repeating that the projection went down so dramatically because of the quarantine is truly scary. It’s not a complicated thought.

The number of deaths is much lower than expected because the Wuhan virus works differently than was initially thought. We are in luck.

Of course, this isn’t to say that tomorrow somebody in China won’t drag another infected pangolin (whatever it is) home from a lab and we won’t be on the hook for something worse than the WuFlu.

There is no real solution because nobody can predict what the next virus is going to be. You can hoard ventilators and masks but it can easily be dysentery or encephalitis or whatever.

People who keep wailing that “we should have been prepared” are right up there with the folks who aren’t managing to take in a very clear model.

10 thoughts on “Why Projections Went Down”

  1. Wow. I just checked the projections website. For Maryland, peak resource use has been moved up to April 14th, and projected deaths by August 4 has dropped from ~1,900 (as of Thursday) to 598.


  2. I’m personally convinced that the original projections were based on outcomes in China, without anyone realising (or willing to say publicly, let alone write into their study methodology) that the virus affects different races differently due to genetic differences in immune response. The original virus, SARS-CoV-1 was the same. It killed North Asian people at a much, much higher rate than North Europeans.

    Echoes of the above idea are starting to appear here and there, with for example more deaths in some populations (eg African Americans, particularly men) but it’ll take a while to prove or disprove in the stats.


    1. “the virus affects different races differently due to genetic differences in immune response”

      No doubt an individual’s genetic makeup will be a factor in their response to any disease. But the notion that there are genetic “races” is pseudo-science. The fact that specific genetic markers may cluster in certain cultural populations/regions of the globe is no proof of the division of humanity into biological “races.”


    2. The quality of China’s medical system could also be a factor. I haven’t seen it discussed anywhere in the media, but I have a friend (American) who taught at a Chinese university for a while and had to have emergency surgery while she was there. Her experience at the hospital motivated her to leave the country because she was afraid of ever needing to go to a Chinese hospital again. There were lots of obvious hygiene issues and they were using food service gloves instead of medical gloves.

      The fact that South Korea and Taiwan have done relatively well with COVID-19 suggest to me that the social and medical responses are probably more important than any genetic differences.


      1. This is very interesting, Tom W. I think most people have no idea about China’s healthcare (and I’m one of them), so nobody even considers it as a factor.


        1. “have no idea about China’s healthcare”

          The tiny bit I know isn’t encouraging (a video by a guy who lived in China for years, whose Chinese wife is a doctor)
          AFAICT even in modern western looking hospitals there’s not much belief in things like the germ theory of disease and so medical personnel don’t necessarily wash their hands between patients and single use equipment gets reused..


  3. You’re right that we can’t prepare for everything, but PPE and other basic medical supplies are useful for a broad range of diseases. We would certainly be in a better place if each hospital had kept a larger supply of those items on hand. I read earlier this week that an expert commission after the H1N1 scare had recommended all hospitals maintain a 10 week supply of PPE and other basic supplies. Apparently many hospitals keep half that or less. It would also make sense for lots of organisations to revisit their supply lines and build in some more diversity into those. There are lots of things that are only manufactured in China at this point and that’s causing problems and shortages in areas that have nothing to do with the virus.


  4. “ People who keep wailing that “we should have been prepared” are right up there with the folks who aren’t managing to take in a very clear model.”

    But not everyone: South Korea was prepared, with border controls, tests and masks. It’s an abject failure from many Western countries, not a success.


    1. It was prepared for this but not for something else. They have a lot of these viruses in the region, so they are used to having masks on hand. It’s a cultural variation, that’s all.


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