BILLINGS — New projections from a model used by the Trump administration predict 81 deaths from COVID-19 in Montana by Aug. 4.
That same model from the University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation has fluctuated quite a bit over the last week as new data has been released.
The first projections on March 31 predicted 268 deaths by early August, and the state breathed a sigh of relief when that number was revised downward dramatically to 22 deaths on Tuesday, April 6.
In the most recent projections, researchers maintain the expectation that Montana will have enough hospital beds and ICU beds to handle the patients still expected to suffer from the virus. The projections are based on residents continuing to practice social distancing and adhering to the stay at home order.
The peak resource use for hospitals was put back a full week going from April 13 to April 20.
The projection for Wyoming has also changed. On Wednesday, the IHME revised the Wyoming death projection down from 114 to 67. The peak hospital resource use day is April 30.
The projections for the United States are improving. As of Wednesday, the model predicted the virus will kill 60,000 people in the United States over the next four months. That's about 33,000 fewer deaths than the model estimated last Thursday. While the US is still expected to face a shortage of about 16,000 hospital beds, it will need 168,000 fewer beds than previously expected, according to the new analysis.
New data on the pandemic's trajectory -- from the United States and around the world -- has been fed into the model almost every day, driving the changes. The downward adjustment suggests social distancing may be working better than expected in some places.
The model's first major shift came on Sunday, when a "massive infusion of new data" led to changes, according to the model's maker, Dr. Christopher Murray, who serves as director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Additional data on the pandemic's trajectory has always been expected, along with methodological changes to fine-tune the predictions. And from the start, researchers at IHME, who built the model, have emphasized that it would change.
But the newest version of the model underscores just how important social distancing continues to be: It assumes those measures, such as closing schools and businesses, will continue through the modeled period, which is until August. And it still predicts tens of thousands of deaths.