Without mass testing, we’re flying blind through this crisis
Something important is happening as the coronavirus crisis continues: Estimates of its lethality keep going down. On March 31, the White House estimated that, even with social distancing policies in place, between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die of covid-19. Anthony S. Fauci recently indicated the government’s estimates will soon be revised downward.The University of Washington model — which has been cited by the White House — predicted on March 26 that, assuming social distancing stays in place until June 1, U.S. deaths over the next four months would most likely be about 81,000. By April 8, it had made more than five revisions, to get to the current number: 60,415. That’s on par with the number of people estimated to have died of the flu in the 2019-2020 season.What is going on? Perhaps social distancing has worked better than was imagined. But still, there is a puzzle about the numbers. Predictions for hospitalization rates have also proved to be substantial overestimations. On March 30, University of Washington researchers projected that California would need 4,800 beds on April 3. In fact, the state needed 2,200. The same model projected that Louisiana would need 6,400; in fact, it used only 1,700.