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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Explained: What will be America’s Covid-19 caseload when Joe Biden takes charge?

The model accounts for the fact that people live in interconnected social networks rather than interacting mostly with random groups of strangers.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: November 25, 2020 5:37:15 pm
People wait outside a clinic offering Covid-19 testing, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, in the Park Slope area of the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo: Bebeto Matthews)

Two months ahead of Joe Biden’s scheduled inauguration as US President, researchers have published a study modelling the growth of the pandemic by then. Based on a forecasting model developed by researchers the University of Washington at St Louis, the study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

According to the model, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases (12 million on November 23) is likely to increase to 20 million by end-January. In a statement, Washington University said the same model had accurately forecast the rate of Covid-19 growth over summer 2020. The model was developed by researchers Meng Liu, Raphael Thomadsen and Song Yao.

This chart shows projected cases in the US by January-end 2021, in four different scenarios.

The model accounts for the fact that people live in interconnected social networks rather than interacting mostly with random groups of strangers. “This allows the model to forecast that growth will not continue at exponential rates for long periods of time, as classic Covid-19 forecasts predict,” Thomadsen said on the University website. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

The model also accounts for different levels of social distancing and their impact on the spread of Covid-19. The current social distancing reflects an approximate 60% return to normalcy, as compared with the level of social distancing before the pandemic. This is the scenario that projects 20 million cases before the end of January 2021. On the other hand, going back to a 50% return to normalcy would likely result in 5 million fewer cases by the end of January, according to the model.

“We could effectively squash out the Covid growth within a few weeks if we went back to the levels of social distancing we experienced in April,” Thomadsen said.

However, the researchers caution that this is likely a conservative estimate due to increased testing and the upcoming holidays. According to Song Yao: “In our model, we assume that only 10% of cases are ever diagnosed, meaning that we will start to hit saturation. However, more recently, testing has increased, and probably more like 25% of cases are diagnosed. In that case, total Covid cases would increase beyond 20 million in the next few months unless we, as a society, engage in more social distancing.”

Source: Univ of Washington at St Louis

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