CLEVELAND, Ohio – Ohio could see coronavirus deaths increase by nearly two-thirds by the spring, according to the latest projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
The IHME model, which has been offering projections since early in the pandemic, says Ohio could see 15,538 coronavirus deaths by April 1. The projection assumes Ohio will scale up COVID-19 vaccine distribution over the next 90 days.
The state reported 9,462 deaths through Thursday, so the IHME is projecting a 64.2% increase in deaths over the next four months.
Deaths could decrease under certain circumstances, the IHME says. Scaling up COVID-19 vaccine distribution over the next 45 days would result in deaths falling by 331 to 15,207. If 95% of Ohio residents are fastidious at wearing face masks in public, deaths would fall by 1,302 to 14,236.
Conversely, easing up on some coronavirus restrictions could have disastrous results, the model projects. Loosening some mandates or failing to act if infections or deaths spike could result in deaths reaching 21,540 by April 1, the IHME projects.
The model does predict coronavirus infections will decrease over the coming months, although the IHME measures cases differently than the state of Ohio. The IHME predicts “estimated infections,” which could include someone who contracts COVID-19 but isn’t tested and included in the state’s official tally.
The IHME projected 16,909 “estimated infections” on Thursday, much higher than the 10,251 new cases the state of Ohio confirmed through testing. The IHME predicts “estimated infections” will drop to 3,302 by April 1.
The IHME came closer to predicting the reality of the early part of the coronavirus outbreak in Ohio than other models cited during Gov. Mike DeWine’s coronavirus briefings.
However, even the IHME’s earliest predictions fell far short of predicting the devastation Ohio has seen over the past 10 months. Back on April 6, the IHME predicted only 544 deaths in Ohio through Aug. 4. The state ended up reporting 3,570 by that date.
The IHME has updated its methodology over time as health care experts and scientists have learned more about COVID-19. For example, Director Christopher Murray said last spring that the IHME updated its methodology to reflect the latest data on the percentage of coronavirus patients who require hospitalization, and the effect of social-distancing measures on the spread of infection.
Other modelers, including the Ohio State University’s Infectious Disease Institute and MetroHealth, have also released projections for Ohio and updated their methodologies over time.