The models keep changing.
A coronavirus model that the White House has heavily relied upon has again dropped the number of projected deaths and hospitalizations. Last week, the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington projected 93,531 deaths. On Sunday, the IMHE lowered its estimated to 81,766 deaths. Then on Wednesday, the projection dropped the estimated total deaths to 60,415.
So, what does it all mean?
The U.S. has the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, with more than 435,000 cases and nearly 15,000 deaths. But projections from White House officials just a week ago – heavily covered by the mainstream media – put the death toll at 100,000 to 240,000 (a far cry from the 60,000 or so projected by the IMHE).
Alex Berenson, former New York Times reporter who worked for “the paper of record” from 1999 to 2010, has been doing his own analysis of the ever-changing models and offered some thoughts in a Fox News interview.
Berenson has been questioning the numbers for some time. He first challenged the model from the Imperial College in London, which initially said 500,000 Britons would die. The authors of the model later pushed the projection all the way down to 20,000 (right now there are fewer than 8,000 deaths).
“That was March 22 or 23, and ever since then I’ve been paying incredibly close attention to the modeling and trying to figure out whether it lines up with what we’re seeing in reality – and the answer is, it hasn’t lined up at all,” he said.
Berenson recently focused his attention on the IMHE model.
“Aside from New York, nationally there’s been no health system crisis. In fact, to be truly correct, there has been a health system crisis, but the crisis is that the hospitals are empty,” he said on Fox. “This is true in Florida where the lockdown was late, this is true in southern California where the lockdown was early, it’s true in Oklahoma where there is no statewide lockdown. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between the lockdown and whether or not the epidemic has spread wide and fast.”
Top experts argue that efforts to stem the spread – shutting down all non-essential businesses, enacting social distancing metrics and urging all Americans to wear face masks – are responsible for the changing models.
“We believe that our health care delivery system in the United States is quite extraordinary,” Dr. Deborah Birx said at a White House press briefing on Wednesday. “I know many of you are watching the Act Now model and the IHME model– and they have consistently decreased the number, the mortality from over almost 90,000 or 86,000, down to 81,000 and now down to 61,000. That is modeled on what America is doing. That’s what’s happening.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the same day that the models show social distancing is working – and changing the data input into the models. “Because remember, what you do with data will always outstrip a model. You redo your models, depending upon your data, and our data is telling us that mitigation is working.”
But Berenson said the precipitous drop in cases has occurred before lockdowns would have had a chance to have an impact, saying it would take several weeks for social distancing measures to take effect.
And he said the mainstream media are, in part, to blame.
“Look, I get why people were so scared three or four weeks ago. I was too. But now – for the media to ignore the real demographics and scare people with outlier cases – to ignore the mostly empty hospitals all over the country – to pretend that the models weren’t wrong … and to refuse to ask really hard questions about what that means about them and the efficacy or lack thereof of the lockdowns – to refuse to ask for hard metrics we will use to reopen the country … it doesn’t feel like panic is driving this anymore. It feels like people just won’t admit what’s happening,” he wrote on Twitter.
Berenson also pointed out that COVID-19 deaths are on pace to come in even with the deaths attributed to influenza in 2017.
“Nobody says COVID-19 is not real, that it can’t tax hospitals or kill people, esp. if they are over 75 or have comorbidities. But right now the best CURRENT projection is for 61,000 US deaths. That was the 2017 flu season. Why have we shut the country?” he wrote.
Nobody says COVID-19 is not real, that it can't tax hospitals or kill people, esp. if they are over 75 or have comorbidities. But right now the best CURRENT projection is for 61,000 US deaths. That was the 2017 flu season. Why have we shut the country?https://t.co/OMStr4jd6i
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) April 9, 2020