Models predicting the potential spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have become a fixture of American life. Yet each model tells a different story about the devastation to come, making it hard to know which one is “right.” But COVID-19 models aren’t made to be unquestioned oracles. They’re not trying to tell us one precise future, but rather the range of possibilities given the facts on the ground.
One of their more sober tasks is predicting the number of Americans who will die due to COVID-19. FiveThirtyEight — with the help of data compiled by the COVID-19 Forecast Hub — has assembled nine models published by scientists to illustrate possible trajectories of the pandemic’s death toll.