Predicting the future is a tough racket. If people were any good at it, we’d all be multiple lottery winners. Since we aren’t, that’s a pretty good indication that we have the ability to guess what will happen, but possess no clairvoyance. That brings us to today, when the country and the world are shut down over what is expected to happen with the coronavirus. Like everything else, the predictions aren’t panning out. Were this just $2 wasted on a lottery ticket it wouldn’t matter. But are we hurting millions of people and spending trillions of dollars on nothing more than a hunch based on computer models that are wildly inaccurate?
There’s no question the coronavirus is deadly and dangerous, but is it going to kill hundreds of thousands in the US and millions around the world? We have no idea. All we have are guesses. But if you’re going to destroy the economy and severely restrict people’s lives, you’d better have some damn good information backing up your actions. There are questions about the computer models being used to impose just that.
One prominent model in the shutdown is from the University of Washington, from their Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), funded by Bill and Melinda Gates. How closely does what they predicted track with reality so far? Turns out, not so well.
While the reporting data from some states are lagging, others have provided information that calls into question the validity of the whole model, and with it, all the actions taken by government.
On April 4th, for example, the IHME model predicted there would be between 120,963 and 203,436 Americans requiring hospitalization, with the average of that range being 164,745. In reality, there were 18,998.
Before your jaw goes through the floor, it must be noted that not all states have reported their numbers, so the actual total is incomplete. The largest states have reported, so the missing numbers from places like Kansas or even Michigan will add to that total, but still will not get it anywhere near the projections.
That’s just hospitalizations, when it comes to intensive care beds, the difference between the projections and reality show an equally large gap. The average projected ICU beds needed on April 4th was 31,057; the reality was 4,686. That’s across the country, not just New York. Even after factoring in the caveats about missing states, that’s a miss akin to swinging and striking out on a pickoff to second base.