Coronavirus Update VIII: Blown Forecasts & Peak Performance

Coronavirus Update VIII: Blown Forecasts & Peak Performance

All the good stuff, caveats, code, data sources and explanations are linked, some in Update III, and the most important in Update II, Update IV, Update V, Update VI, Update VII, Bayes Theorem & Coronavirus, and the Sanity Check Perspective, so go to them first before asking what-about-this-and-that. Skip to the bottom for the latest model. Thanks to everybody emailing me sources, including Ted Poppke, Jeff Jorgensen, Jim Fedako, Joe Bastardi, Philip Pilkington, John Buckner, Harry Goff, John Goetz, Warren McGee. Sorry I’m slow answering emails.

These are growing too long, so I’m moving all non-statistical material out of the updates.


  1. Our Model Performance
  2. Expert Model Performance
  3. Flu
  4. Our Model Newest Guesses
  5. USA! USA! USA!

Our Model Performance

The naive model, which I have been consistently warning us under-predicts until we get to the peak, on 9 March guessed 6,200 worldwide total deaths. Completely blown. Off by an order of magnitude. By the 17th, the model said 14,000—with the same caution given about under-predictions.

By the 24th, 39,000. Last week: 80,000. Now (see below): 130,000.

If you followed the naive model on a daily basis, you would have seen the same steady upward projection like in the week by week totals. But over the last week the numbers actually started decreasing, but only by a fraction. Because it appears we are at the peak, the point at which I said the model would start doing a better job.

Recall that this is only a naive model whose only assumption is that the reported numbers—and not necessarily actual numbers—follow a standard shape. That’s it. We started with it because so many people were going on and on about exponential increases and doubling times—everybody forgetting it is impossible for these increases to be sustained. The exponential shape is wrong.

Our shape is right (though for about a month the slope was off), and if I were to do it all over I’d certainly not estimate the model raw, and instead use prior estimates for the parameters—as a good Bayesian would—from an outbreak that looked like it might be similar. Like from Swine flu (see below). Ah well, I leave this as a class exercise.

Expert Model Performance

Maybe you don’t recall, but back in February, many were predicting tens of millions of deaths across the globe.

A model used at Johns Hopkins in a simulation of a generic outbreak (not the coronavirus) from late in 2019 predicted some 65 million deaths. This was used by some to predict coronavirus numbers, though it was not the model’s original intention. Other early models using “AI” (fancy statistical models with impressive sounding names), said 53 million. Bill Gates came in with the smallest early prediction of 33 million. Another IT pro said 43 million. The figure of 50 million was popular.

There were others. Such as the Ferguson model, which we have dissected before. Do you remember how it was said based on that model we’d have 1 to 2 million dead—if we didn’t follow instructions? In the USA alone.

If we follow instructions, the official model—whatever it was—-on 1 April said “White House projects 100K to 240K US deaths from virus“.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned Americans to brace for a “hell of a bad two weeks” ahead as the White House projected there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained.

Even if. Again, this Birx said “said pandemic forecasts initially predicted 1.5 million to 2.2 million deaths in the U.S.” If we didn’t obey.

People are beginning to question the models. One report complained:

White House officials have refused to explain how they generated the figure – a death toll bigger than the United States suffered in the Vietnam War or the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They have not provided the underlying data so others can assess its reliability, and have not provided long-term strategies to lower that death count…

At a task force meeting this week, according to two officials with direct knowledge of it, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told others that there are too many variables at play in the pandemic to make the models reliable: “I’ve looked at all the models. I’ve spent a lot of time on the models. They don’t tell you anything. You can’t really rely upon models.”

You can’t really rely upon models? Golly!

Certainly not Fauci’s models: “Dr. Fauci claimed that AIDS might be transmissible by ‘routine close contact.’ (May 5, 1983, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association). (Michael Fumento, The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS, p. 237).”

You’ll have to click on that to maximize the pics, but it appears the median peak deaths per day was projected at 2,271, and another from about 1,200 to 3,500 (I’m eyeballing these).

Okay, enough of all that. Save it all for another day: we still have to cover blown hospitalization models, blown ventilators models, etc.

Here’s the gist of all this.

If in the States we don’t get about 100-240 thousand deaths, because we are now obeying, the Official Model can be considered blown.

Therefore, the model believers cannot claimed that they saved us from 1 to 2.2 million deaths. Because that claim is based on the model being accurate. And it isn’t.

Yet you and I both know they will still claim credit. I heard the news conference Monday night at which they were already starting to take credit.

Who takes credit for the flu going away? How does it go away without massive intervention? How much more would totals be for coronavirus without intervention?


Here, straight from the CDC, are the weekly flu deaths from 2013-2020, up through Week 12 this year.

See 2017-2018? Over 1,500 dead a week at the peak. Hospital- and ICU-stressing deaths. Painful awful deaths. Most of which—all of which?—were unreported by the media. Did they therefore happen? Are these deaths like the tree in the forest which falls outside earshot?

Another thing to note is how typical 2020 is.

Now the weekly deaths due to pneumonia.

These are raw numbers, and are declining, but since population is increasing, the picture is better than suggested. Again, 2020 looks normal-ish. By which I mean, there’s a lot of people keeling over from pneumonia.

Now the weird one: all deaths.

Yes, that drop is in the data: we went from 52,000 in Week 10, to 48,000 in Week 11, to 40,000 in Week 10. Some say this is the CDC printing incomplete data, which given this is the government is easy to believe. It matches the date of the most current flu update, though. And all the other numbers look kosher. Come back in a week and we’ll see.

If it’s right, then the lock downs are working. Turns out firing people from their jobs and locking them inside keeps them from dying of things like car crashes. All we have to do, if we want to save lives, is lock people away forever. Right?

Look how many people would be saved from flu deaths if we locked everybody down, and not just the elderly or sickest. Why don’t we? Why not every year do a lock down? Answer below.

Locking down annually will certainly save medical resources, which we now know are all critically important, as this CDC plots of illnesses due to flu prove (central estimate +/- 95% confidence bounds):

Twenty to fifty million a year. Millions, yes. Every year.

Now hospitalizations:

Hundreds of thousands, to even millions a year. A lot of people in the ER and ICU!

Now deaths:

Median of 38,00 per year, each and every year, and anywhere from 12,00 to 61,000. Maybe even up to 90+ thousand.

Would you say that’s a lot? Would you say it’s a lot if COVID-19 deaths turn about to be ~20,000 in the States?

Final 2020 numbers aren’t in. As of 28 March, CDC said “so far this season there have been at least 39 million flu illnesses, 400,000 hospitalizations and 24,000 deaths from flu.”

Incidentally, it isn’t just the USA. Here’s Europe (the distracting lines are model averages).

Our Model Newest Guesses

Remember: this is a model of reports, not of actual numbers. We are modeling the reporting process, not actual cases and deaths.

One more caveat, which I’ve made before, but not highlighted. If there is a third peak, this naive model can’t see it. Such a peak might come (here’s the highlight) in the Southern Hemisphere winter, when they’re amidst their own flu season.

The Southern Hemisphere has about 800 million souls, and the Northern Hemisphere has the rest of the 7.7 billion. So if our model below is right, and the NH infections burn out around 150 thousand deaths, then a simple extrapolation for a third peak would suggest another 18,000 or so deaths from the SH. That’s a crude, back-of-the-envelope guess based on a substantial if. Don’t make book on it.

Last week the model said this week would be the peak—though our naive model has been consistently under-predicting the peak and totals. Here’s the latest:

Just under 2 million reported cases, and about 131 thousand reported deaths.

Same thing without the log scale.

It’s difficult to tell from these pics, unless you’re used to looking at similar one, but the inflection point has been passed. Which we can see in the dailies.

First, how accurate are reported cases and deaths to actual? Probably not very, as this plot shows: deaths/cases.

If this ratio represented the actual mortality rate, the line would be steady, averaged across the globe, assuming constant virus “strength”. That this plot is still rocketing northwards means (1) cases are under-reported (lack of measurement), (2) deaths over-attributed (dying with is not same as dying from), or (3) both. My guess is (3), with (1) being the most important part.

If this is right, and it is noticed, we may see a ramp up of measurements—which the model cannot see—leading to a big boost in reported cases. But deaths won’t rise as much. We’ll see.

Daily reported new cases.

Somebody asked me elsewhere about the variability, saying, for example, France reported on one day a multiple-day cumulative total right where it looked like we were at the peak, and could we smooth this. I said no, because that’s cheating. We’re not reporting actual cases, but reports. And the choppiness is part of the reporting process.

Again, if no third peak comes now, and which may never come, WE’RE ABOUT TO GO EXPONENTIAL! Everybody remember words like those? Works not just going up, but the other way, too.

Now the logic of modeling the reporting process might be clearer. Those who govern us can see these same numbers—usually on a country-by-country basis. At what point will they issue the PANIC LESS bulletin? Surely not right the peak, because the fear will be it isn’t a true peak. Politicians fear false negatives far more than false positives. My guess is another week, depending on locality.

That would be the point at which the peak becomes indisputable. And the point where the weather starts cutting us a break. Forecast for NYC for Friday night, for instance, is for upper 30s. Thirties! Rain throughout the week. Longer-range says next week in the 60s, and some virus-killing sunshine. LA just had a record amount of daily rain,.

This will probably be the last time we need to show the acceleration plots.

The zero line has been breached. The peak is upon us, or even past. Says the data and the model.

Now daily death reports.

That odd up-down up-down up-down is still with us, suggesting tomorrow is a down day. Which is good, in the sense we didn’t catch down day today (Monday night), else predictions would look too good.

Same story with the acceleration, and easier to see up-down.

Zero line clearly breached.

Finally, here’s the same global totals, now per capita.

Model says reported cases will be 0.025% of population, and deaths about 0.002%. Flu, WHO tells us, kills about 650,000 in a bad year, which is 0.008%. The Wu flu scores a quarter of that, a number which puts us solidly in the Swine Flu category.

Recall Swine Flu estimates were 152-575 thousand dead. And no panic. No global freak out or lock down. Many horrible deaths, but none televised, so they didn’t count.


Totals for USA, using the same model structure (though of course estimated only using USA numbers) and data from this source (numbers vary across sources: remember how messy medical data is?):

Total reported cases: 510,000. Total reported deaths: 18,500. Which is almost exactly what Swine “What Me, Panic?” Flu was. Other sources, using complex models assuming “full social distancing” say 82,000 USA deaths. (Like ours, they update this routinely, so click over now if you want to see.)

Daily reported cases:

Looks like the peak. Smells like the peak. Feels like the peak. But is it? Hey, maybe, maybe not. I’d bet yes.

I won’t show the accelerations, since I’m betting on the peak. Here’s daily reported deaths.

We’re hearing this will be worst week, which if they include that top number will be. Maybe close or tied to last week. That’s just by looking at the data, not the model. The more complex model linked above says the 16th will be the peak with 3,130 deaths per day. USA alone.

Could it continue to rise as they have it? Hey, maybe, maybe not. I’m betting not. If the weather forecasts are right.

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  1. Harry Goff

    And here in Australia they will take credir for trashing the economy and taking away our social freedoms purely based on these numbers.
    COVID 19 – raw data extracted from Australian Government Heath Dept Website

    In Australia up to 3:00PM 7 April 2020

    Number of people tested 310,000 (we have now tested over 1.2% of the Australian population)
    Number who have tested positive 5908
    Number who have died 45
    Infection rate of those tested 1.91%
    Death rate of those tested positive 0.76%
    Death rate of all tested 0.015%
    Fatality rate per 100,000 of Aussie population 0.18
    Infection rate of Australian Population 0.024%
    Current survival rate 99.2%
    Number currently in a serious or critical condition 96 (1.6%)

    “Houston, we have a problem”
    “No problems Skipper, we can fix it, but first we have to trash your economy and take away all your social freedoms”
    “Go ahead Houston”
    And the Band played ‘Waltzing Matilda’ as the Lemmings cascaded over the Cliffs.

  2. Sheri

    Harry Goff: Love your little story! Lemmings unite for death!!!

    ‘Recall that this is only a naive model whose only assumption is that the reported numbers—and not necessarily actual numbers—follow a standard shape.” Actually, the hocky stick is the standard shape, but it was decided a hockey stick might be over-the-top. Remember, you’re modeling imagination, which means YOU’RE WASTING YOUR TIME. Oh, sorry, forgot your dictator locked you in your houses…. My bad.

    “If in the States we don’t get about 100-240 thousand deaths, because we are now obeying, the Official Model can be considered blown.” NO ONE CARES. Not a soul. Trump now believes the witchcraft models, so if he believes, we all believe. Even if we don’t, we will be so happy to be temporarily freed from the hamster cage, we won’t care about how stupid the people in charge are.

    “(2) deaths over-attributed (dying with is not same as dying from)” The CDC just ADMITTED this one. So it absolutely is the reason. If anyone dies of anything and you can possibly or even unlikely attribute it to the Covid 19 political disease outbreak, the CDC says “GO FOR IT” The CDC says LIE on death certificates. Got it?

    No models matter. This is 100% imaginary as far as disease spread goes and the rules change by the hour. You cannot ever, ever model imagination. There’s some rule about that. Yet, you try. Again, evil dicatator locking you at home….. I know. It’s just that I already lived by the “rules” the evil dicatators are imposing, so I don’t notice. Most people do not and seem to be becoming a bit irritated, though not enough to even match the determination of a hamster to escape its cage. (Did see some great photos of New Yorkers on a “closed” beach yesterday. Go New Yorkers.)

    Again, since Mark Steyn was asking yesterday, we, the rational crew, remind you that contrary to Newspeak, few lives are saved by flattening the peak. The extremely ill, IF IF IF IF they cannot get a bed and a ventilator, MIGHT be saved. But the virus starts again the MINUTE you let people out. You do not stop the spread. As a commentor here or elsewhere noted: IT’S ABOUT HOSPITAL BEDS. Which apparently we still have available enough of these beds to cover Wuhan and a couple of small countries. Slit our own throats for nothing……sigh.

    Please, God, send the Vulcans soon. Or the Klingons, or the Romulans. (The Ferengi are here and are disguised as Bill Gates and George Soros). Anything…….we obviously cannot save ourselves, but I’m not even sure we care to. Thus, the request for Klingons or Romulans. End it all very quickly.

  3. Douglas Skinner

    Regarding your plot of Daily Reported Cases Acceleration, could you elaborate on the significance of this? Not to say it isn’t significant, I just don’t fully understand it. I believe you plotted the second difference of reported cases vs. time? I did this myself and got a plot that looks similar to yours. And like yours it has crossed zero on the y-axis several times. So the acceleration corresponds to the second derivative to the cumulative cases curve and, hence, indicates inflection points? Because of the multiplicity of such points, I don’t see how this helps determine if the daily case curve is peaking. Can you bring me up to speed?

  4. Fredo

    RE: ‘Slit our own throats for nothing……sigh.’ No No Sheri not for
    nothing the 6 to 10 trillion dollar heist is in just like 2008. Millions of
    unemployed real estate to be foreclosed. Only fly in the ointment
    is this time they’ll have to wait three months to start the foreclosures.
    You might think this was a reprise of 2008 and it is but on steroids.

  5. To all the jackasses out there who we now have to carry – get with the program. We know who you are and we will not relent until we have 100% compliance.

    Phil Murphy, NJ Governor

  6. Pooch

    You are saying we are in Swine Flu territory for total deaths but we didn’t lock down for Swine Flu so it’s not a true apples to apples comparison.

    Clearly, without lock down, deaths for corona in the US would exceed your projected 18,500, but obviously would be no where near the absurd 2 million used to fear monger us.

    How much more would the deaths have been if we didn’t lock down? Only with that number, can we then compare corona to previous pandemics in a true apples to apples way. Your next post should explore that.

  7. Bryce

    I think we would’ve legitimately had 200k deaths in the US without mitigation. The reason “mitigation” became synonymous with “lockdown” is because the bureaucrats saw that everyone was still going to the beach and not obeying the lockdown suggestion. Bureaucrats want to look like they’re in control and save face. As an aside, they also care about us on some level (Romans 13).

    Will we have saved more lives due to lockdown than we’ll lose from the economic fallout? I doubt it, but I have no data. Right now, certain states (CA) are paying UI claims but deducting most of the UI checks in taxes. The tide is going out and many people are naked.

  8. pK


    There can never be an apples to apples comparison. The governments upended peoples’ lives based on reading tea leaves by multiple experts and now you want someone to read the leaves again to claim what would have happened if the lockdown didn’t happen. Really? Everything points to the fact that if this virus didn’t have a PR agent, no one would have noticed.

  9. Kalif

    ‘now you want someone to read the leaves again to claim what would have happened if the lockdown didn’t happen. Really?’

    Yes, exactly. That’s what properly controlled studies do. What you are referring to is called counterfactual, which cannot be achieved but can be simulated. Not all countries closed down. Japan, you know the one that’s experiencing an uptick in infections now, would be one of them. Turkey took similar approach to Japan and they are experiencing the same. If there was a way to adjust for various baseline differences among countries, you could possibly do some semi-meaningful comparisons b/w those that locked down and those that didn’t.

    Whatever the means of spreading this virus were, the strict measures taken everywhere surely reduced the overall numbers. No question about it. If I don’t drive my car for a week, I don’t need to debate whether I saved on gas or reduced emissions. It’s simple arithmetic at that point.

  10. We are tap dancing. We are always tap dancing. l found out this week that there are many people out there who are very intelligent and very well spoke and very clear headed who have never pondered the problem of “Do I kill 50 or do I kill 5000?” They took statistics and they forget the part where the professor taught us Chebychev and told us to do the calculation to figure out what the accuracy of a test that is 95% accurate at ascertaining if a subject has a disease given that we know he has the disease and 95% accurate at telling us if he doesn’t have the disease if we know he doesn’t have the disease is…

    I am looking for that procedure. I remember the answer though. 5%…

    This haunts me. A test that does 99/99 is a lot better, but it still flirts with the same problem. One of the reasons we wait for symptoms is because it plays a pseudo role in making the test sort of “we know he might have it”.

    But I can never get wmbriggs out of my head. He had this bloody test for breast cancer. The implications of the test are relevant to this discussion. But they are relevant in that I am wondering when we are going to have to line up and get injected with COVID-19 so that we can solve the bigger problem we maid by isolating everyone.

    WHO THE HELL wants to be the one to say “Sorry folks, we sort off screwed up, we need you to stop being so good at the 6ft rule.. Let’s make it 2ft. Everyone let the social distancing collapse to 2ft… Keep everything else the same though for now!”

    The flu numbers are a giant problem in this mix. Basically what we are learning right now is that the CDC just yanks those numbers out of the air. Why? They have a plan. They need me to wash my hands and get vaccinated. Big numbers are scary. Big numbers might make me compliant. But Crying wolf is a bad idea. We don’t learn that story just because it is fun.

  11. Control. Over you. That’s what this is about.

    Watch this video from India (many more show the same and worse). Armed government officers cane citizens moving about the streets. For violations of “distancing”, or curfew.

    There’s a whole sub-class of American busy-bodies who are jealous. They would love to have such control. It’s just a matter of time…?

    “Andhra Pradesh police pick up lathis to deal with curfew violators”

  12. Fredo

    What’s interesting is that everything is in plain sight nothing is hidden.
    I encourage you to watch the entire series everything we’ve just gone
    through is laid out in excruciating detail. Of course it’s all coincidence
    but I’m reminded of a principal in magic where in order to accomplish
    a feat the magician must telegraph what’s about to happen before the
    actual event, a little like sticking pins in a voodoo doll. Note the date.
    Event 201 Pandemic Exercise: Highlights Reel

  13. Sheri

    Fredo: I probably should have said “Slit our own throats for nothing of value to ourselves”. Someone obviously benefited and benifited hugely. Yes, it’s 2008 on steroids. Except this time the government causing it is 100% transparent, and still people do not care. I still sigh…..

    Pooch: Not at all clear. Check out South Korea, Sweden and Brazil. They still have economies. We don’t.
    It’s all based on a fantasy with nothing to back up the already failed models that are EIGHT TO TEN TO 40 TIMES TOO HIGH.
    No matter what, the count will go up UNLESS WE STAY LOCKED UP FOREVER. That’s how this works. Again, shelter in place was about hospital beds, not lives. (Same answer to everyone who thinks we “saved lives”—it was never about saving lives, except for the deathly ill that had no hospital beds. It will immediately come back when we let people out of house jail. It has to. It’s how a virus works. Unless you have a vaccine or herd immunity, or a very effective treatment, the same number die under lockdown as no lockdown. It’s just more spread out with the second choice. Unless we can figure a way to live forever 6 feet or more apart, at which point we are met with the same fate as the Shakers.)

  14. Fredo

    Sheri: I don’t think it’s necessarily a matter of people caring or not
    caring but more the phenomenon of learned helplessness which has
    been inculcated in the American psyche for generations now. Thank’s
    to Eddy Bernays ‘The Father of Public Relations.’

  15. C-Marie

    My husband reminded me tonight of what Jesus said, ” Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” So, we are shopping tomorrow, using some old cut up t-shirts for masks, which I found in my art room (I paint for fun in oils). We need milk as we drink it daily, plus a few other items. Jesus calmed the seas, healed the sick, and raised the dead, so using “common sense”, meaning doing the part we can do, we are trusting Christ for that is the work He gives us to do.

    God bless, C-Marie

  16. Tim Hammond

    Just catching g up on all the updates and one point you might have missed about Italy and flu – Italy has a relatively low uptake of the flu vaccine amongst the elderly. Its c.50% versus over 70% in Holland and the UK.

  17. Dave

    Nice post this week.

    I thought this was a well-reasoned thread from a (self-proclaimed) right wing guy regarding arguments doubting the severity of this coronavirus:

    There are lots of points in there, but the ones I’d highlight are:
    – Reasonable estimates suggest it is about an order of magnitude more deadly than the flu for those infected (CFR of ~1% or more vs 0.1%). I’d also add that most pre-lockdown estimates of R0 put it as about 10-100% more contagious than the seasonal flu (the voluntary actions and “stay at home” orders of course help reduce R0 — that’s the point).
    – Even for countries that are past the peak, or had it contained initially, they are still struggling to keep cases down. Some countries are reinstating lockdowns again, and others who did well early on are increasing restrictions as cases accelerate. They have not necessarily been declining like the right side of a bell curve.
    – Lots of evidence that economic activity was declining quickly before any government “stay at home” orders, so even if these were to let up, it’s incorrect to think we’d go back to anything close to previous levels of production while virus is still a substantial threat. People rationally don’t want to get sick with a bat virus or risk death.
    – Both coronavirus deaths and flu deaths can happen to not-otherwise-healthy people. So if you think covid-19 deaths are inflated in this way, then so are flu deaths. There is some evidence out of Italy (and elsewhere) that coronavirus-related deaths are well under reported (there is a large unexplained spike in other deaths). To what extent these are directly from coronavirus, or just lack of hospital capacity (from covid-19) for things that are normally treatable is unknown.

    He also does a nice job acknowledging his (unquantified) uncertainty in some of what he says.

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