New IHME model predicts 2,308 COVID-19 deaths in Alabama by August

Updated: May. 5, 2020 at 8:34 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A model cited by The White House and state leaders is projecting eight-times as many people will die from COVID-19 in Alabama than it did last month.

READ: IHME COVID-19 Projections: Alabama

New projections released by The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimates 2,308 people will die from this virus by August. Last month, it predicted 294 deaths over the same period in Alabama.

The change in forecasting can be attributed to updated modeling and additional data, according to information provided by IHME.

“These projections are considerably higher than previous estimates, representing the combined effects of death model updates and formally incorporating the effect of changes in mobility and social distancing policies into transmission dynamics,” according to a news released posted on IHME’s website.

While the projections are made using numerous data sets and complex statistical formulas, infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Saag said the predictions are straightforward.

“I think it’s a shot across the bow,” said Dr. Saag, Director, Center for AIDS Research, UAB. “I think it’s telling us we are moving away from what was working to something much worse and we need to take heed, regroup, rethink and go back to square one and how we want to plan to manage this.”

He added, “I’m very worried that those more deaths are going to come to fruition and I don’t think we are going to be ready for it.”

Looking at the projections, Dr. Saag warns another peak would be more devastating for public and economic health.

“Everyone is talking about the number of cases and everyone is talking about the economic impact, but very few people are talking about the economic impact of more cases in August,” said Dr. Saag. “There are going to be ripple effects that we can’t even begin to imagine now.”

IHME notes Alabama as one of seven states with “noticeable” changes in death projections. While researchers said exact reasons vary state-to-state, there are commonalities, including, “for a subset of states, the easing of social distancing policies has begun and mobility patterns are on the rise (or even started increasing before easing actions occurred).”

WBRC checked with State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris to see if he has reviewed the latest IHME modeling. Dr. Harris said he is certainly following it but added, “we believe that our own internal data is more robust now and gives us much more information than we had originally, when IHME was the predominant model in use around the country.”

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