One of the nation's most widely watched virus projection models, the one relied upon by infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and often cited by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has revised its local death projections upward for the second time in a week.
More people will die in the tri-state area, and the country, than previously thought before the pandemic ebbs -- and the fatalities won't level off for a longer period of time, according to the Gates Foundation-backed IHME model.
In an updated model posted Tuesday night, IHME projected Connecticut's ultimate death toll to be at 2,884 by the summer. The timelines now extend later as well, to May 20 and May 30. Nationally, projected fatalities increased slightly.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the state had lost 1,423 people to COVID-19 or related complications.
The current IHME model assumes Connecticut will have a triple-digit death toll every day through April 26, and a double-digit toll daily through May 15.
According to IHME's website, it primarily relies on data aggregated by Johns Hopkins, which has been the most commonly cited source for real-time numbers, down to a county level, on total cases and deaths globally and nationally. It uses data from local health departments and hospital networks to assist in data collection.
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Notably, the model also revised its projected dates after which states could begin to relax social distancing restrictions. Presuming strong containment strategies remain in place, including testing, contact tracing, isolation and crowd limitations, IHME now says Connecticut could begin to ease social distancing -- paving the way to reopen nonessential business -- after June 7. In its previous model run, IHME projected that date to be June 1. While it moved back the timeline for Connecticut, it moved the timeline up for New York and New Jersey to late May.
The three states to date have reported more than 21,300 deaths related to COVID-19. In New York, the recent daily tolls have been lower than in previous weeks. New Jersey reported its highest single-day death toll Tuesday (379), but Gov. Phil Murphy has said Tuesday numbers may at times reflect a delay in weekend reporting.
Death is a lagging indicator, meaning the toll may very well continue to rise even as other key indicators, like total hospitalizations, net intubations and new hospitalizations, decline. There were 1,308 new virus patients hospitalized in New York on Monday and a similar number on Tuesday, which further solidifies a downward turn. Five days ago that metric was averaging 2,000 or higher.
"We are going down -- how fast we'll find out but we're going down," Cuomo said Wednesday. This is a profound moment in history. Our actions shape our future. If we get reckless today, we’ll suffer the consequences tomorrow."
The governor said New York could see its hospitalization numbers reverse and start to climb again within days if social distancing isn't aggressively maintained.
Cuomo acknowledged some local officials feel pressure to reopen more quickly than others. He said Wednesday he won't allow that to happen in New York.
"We're not going to have people lose their life because we acted imprudently. I'm not going to do that," Cuomo said. "I'm not going to have the obituary of this period be, 'Well, they got nervous so they acted imprudently.'"
There could be a second wave, Cuomo said -- like with the influenza epidemic of 1918. "And if you're not ready for the second wave, that's the wave that's going to knock you down," he said.
New Jersey and Connecticut, with 4,753 and 1,423 virus deaths as of their last reports, have also seen some positive movement on key metrics.a