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How low can we go? Model suggests Mass. coronavirus numbers could drop even further

Rosaphae Bruton, 12, got her first coronavirus vaccine at the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston this week.
Rosaphae Bruton, 12, got her first coronavirus vaccine at the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston this week.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

A University of Massachusetts model forecasts that the state’s coronavirus case and death numbers, which have already plunged from the dark, early days of this year, will drop even further in the next several weeks.

The model suggests the weekly toll of confirmed and probable coronavirus deaths could drop to 28 by Saturday, June 12, down from 71 recorded as of Saturday, May 15.

That number had reached as high as 572 per week early this year as the state’s second surge peaked.

The weekly total of confirmed and probable cases will drop to 1,875 from 4,950, according to the model. That number was as high as 42,954 early this year.

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The modelers caution that the actual numbers can range higher or lower than their forecasts.

Here are the two charts:

The ensemble model developed by UMass sees coronavirus deaths continuing to decline for at least several more weeks.
The ensemble model developed by UMass sees coronavirus deaths continuing to decline for at least several more weeks.Reich Lab/UMass



The ensemble model developed by UMass sees coronavirus cases continuing to decline for at least several more weeks.
The ensemble model developed by UMass sees coronavirus cases continuing to decline for at least several more weeks.Reich Lab/UMass (Custom Credit)

“It’s absolutely incredible that we’re talking about these kinds of numbers,” said Samuel Scarpino, a Northeastern University epidemiologist. “Certainly, it’s because of the public health campaign of vaccinations and the 20 years of science that went into them.”

Scarpino said that, with the B.1.1.7 variant now dominant in the United States, without vaccinations “we’d be in a surge right now.”

The projections come from a lab, headed by UMass Amherst associate professor Nicholas Reich, which collects various models and develops a combined, or ensemble, forecast that is intended to reflect their collective wisdom. Reich’s lab only creates the forecast for a four-week window ahead because researchers believe forecasts aren’t reliable enough after that.

Reich’s lab posts its national- and state-level data every week at the Reich Lab COVID-19 Forecast Hub. The lab, already an Influenza Forecasting Center of Excellence, collaborates with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on coronavirus predictions. The lab feeds the data it has collected and its ensemble forecast to the agency, which posts the data on its website.

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Governor Charlie Baker announced Monday that all industry restrictions will be lifted on Memorial Day weekend, saying the move was possible because the state is on track to “meet its goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents” by early June.

Scarpino said the state should set a target of vaccinating 80 to 85 percent of the total population, which would be around 5.6 to 5.9 million people. “We need really to continue to march toward 80 to 85 percent,” he said.

“What’s going to be important is that we focus on vaccinations over the summer so we’re prepared for respiratory virus season in the fall,” he said.

Material from previous Globe stories was used in this report.


Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.