Nearly 62,000 Floridians could die in from COVID-19 in Florida by December if the state takes no lockdown precautions.
Implementing a universal mask order could drop that death toll to less than 16,000, saving the lives of 46,000 people, the model predicts.
With 7,927 Florida residents confirmed dead as of Friday morning, that’s a staggering prediction by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which produced the model once highlighted by members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
In recent weeks, the daily death toll has continued climbing even as daily infections have been in decline. Deaths are a lagging indicator, occurring weeks behind initial infections.
A week ago, the state tallied a daily record 257 deaths. But the seven-day average of daily deaths has declined slightly the last two days, offering hope that the state is through the worst of the COVID-19 resurgence.
But the IHME model, updated Thursday, expects daily deaths to top 900 by December if there are no lockdown restrictions.
Its low-end estimate predicts the death toll will be at least 31,000 by December. In the worst-case scenario, more than 100,000 Floridians could be dead by then.
IHME’s main “current projection” shows fewer than 20,000 deaths by December and just over 100 daily deaths at that time. But the “current projection” assumes lockdowns would restart for six weeks when daily deaths exceed eight per million residents.
Florida’s seven-day average deaths passed that mark, about 172 for the state, earlier this week. But even as outbreaks surged this summer in the Sunshine State, Gov. Ron DeSantis has insisted the state would not roll back its reopening schedule.
IHME made the previous update to the model on July 30, and its predictions then only carried through Nov. 1. Thursday’s revision added about 8,500 deaths for that date.
Daily infections could peak in late November, according to the model, hitting 88,000 by the end of the month. The model’s case estimate accounts for infections that are never confirmed.
But in recent weeks, daily diagnoses have been declining after some July days saw more than 10,000 new cases. If infections are decreasing naturally rather than decreasing as DeSantis says and the state’s data suggests they are, the death toll might not reach the daunting 62,000 currently pegged for Dec. 1.
The Governor has expressed frustration with reports citing the IHME’s projections, particularly earlier projections that were far higher before Florida began seriously locking down and flattening its curve of infection growth. But earlier iterations of the model, including one that predicted 6,766 deaths by August, in part came true, just not the way it predicted those deaths would come.
A separate model produced by independent data scientist and MIT graduate Youyang Gu currently predicts that fewer than 16,000 Floridians will die by Nov. 1, and it shows daily infections decreasing. The IHME model suggests 38,000 Floridians could die by that date.