By Tom Hallberg
Jackson Hole Daily Via Wyoming News Exchange 

Computer model predicts 153 COVID deaths by February


October 22, 2020

JACKSON — If things don’t turn around, Wyoming could have more than 150 deaths from the coronavirus by February, according to a well-known model.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington maintains a model that predicts coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths in countries around the world. Though it is just one model and therefore is subject to whatever biases are in the data used, scientists, elected officials and news outlets have employed the institute’s projections to understand the potential growth of the pandemic.

The model takes into account statewide health measures, including mask mandates, and projects estimated deaths for both the current situation and one in which a universal mask mandate is in place. It says Wyoming will see 153 deaths by February if conditions stay the same, but that number would drop to 73 with universal mask-wearing.

Wyoming’s death toll as of Wednesday from COVID-19 was 61, and state officials aren’t happy with a recent increase in both cases and hospitalizations.

“As we see hospitalizations rise, we will also see our health care workers further strained, possibly to the compromise of their own health,” Gov. Mark Gordon said at a Wednesday press conference.

Hospitalizations and deaths have naturally followed increases in cases in many places, and Gordon implored Wyomingites to follow public health guidance to keep vulnerable populations safe.

February, when the model says the state will have around 150 deaths from COVID-19, would be just under one year into the pandemic. Should the model turn out to be correct, the death count would far outpace flu deaths, which were 23 in the 2018-19 flu season and 27 in 2017-18, according to Wyoming Department of Health flu season summaries.

That’s a trend that is also seen nationally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 12,000 and 61,000 people die from the flu each year in the U.S., but COVID-19 has killed roughly 222,000 people in the U.S. in nine months.

“It is not chickenpox. It is not the flu, and it is certainly not a cold,” Gordon said Wednesday.


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