New York Governor Cuomo recently said he thinks New York City deaths from COVID-19 may be near an “apex.” White House advisers Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci refer to the same phenomenon as a “peak” or flattening of the bell‐shaped epidemic curve. When we reach that peak, daily reports on the number of coronavirus deaths should stop doubling every five days (from 661 March 31 to 1212 on April 5) and instead begin to level off and then decline.
Governor Cuomo and the White House team share the same expectation that we’re nearing a peak because they share the admirably transparent “Chris Murray Model” from The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
For the nation as whole, the model says the nationwide peak in daily new COVID-19 deaths is expected to peak at 3,130 on April 16 (see the dotted line in “Deaths per Day” graph here). That 3,130 figure is the mid‐point of a range which could go much higher. Yet the latest daily deaths have been a bit lower than mid‐range projections.
If actual deaths more‐or‐less follow the middle path then level off and fall that could result in a total of 81,766 COVID-19 deaths, according to the model’s latest run. But that overall death total depends on a rapid downturn in deaths from late April to late June, which may look too good to be true until we really see it. Allowing some elbow room for slower improvement, the White House team has estimated up to 240,000 deaths from COVID-19 – which would be nearly four times the 61,000 U.S. deaths suffered in the 2017–18 flu season.
If COVID-19 deaths do not stop climbing soon after mid‐April, then Chris Murray’s IHME model may begin to appear too optimistic. But there is nothing secret about it, so anyone can easily check. So long as reality keeps matching the mid‐range curve fairly well, it is fascinating to watch and a little encouraging.