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Key model now forecasts nearly 1,000 deaths in RI due to COVID-19

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A closely watched national model of the COVID-19 pandemic now forecasts nearly 1,000 Rhode Islanders will die from the disease over the coming months, a sharp increase in its projections compared with last week.

The latest projection by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests 966 people in Rhode Island will die through Aug. 4, but acknowledges a huge amount of uncertainty around that number — putting the range of possible outcomes as low as 128 deaths or as high as 3,277.

It also projects the number of deaths per day will peak at 40 on April 29, and that Rhode Island will need 1,649 hospital beds and 334 ICU beds when the surge of sickness is at its height.

The new forecast may bring the university closer to the view of Gov. Gina Raimondo, who warned last week that its previous projection of about 260 deaths looked too rosy compared with the internal modeling the state has been putting together along with Brown University and Johns Hopkins University.

The governor has noted the University of Washington model presumes full compliance with social distancing directives, while she thinks only about half of Rhode Islanders were following the various orders as of last week.

“If anyone tells you they know exactly when Rhode Island’s peak is and what the number of hospitalizations will be at that peak, they’re not being honest with you,” Raimondo said at her daily briefing Monday.

She said the Department of Health is working on its own modeling, in consultation with Brown University, Johns Hopkins University and the CDC. She said the current estimate is that Rhode Island’s peak could be between mid-to-late April and Mid-May, but “that changes every day.”

“It’s all deeply dependent on how much each and every one of us does what we’re told right now,” Raimondo said.

She said she drove around doing spot checks at stores on Sunday afternoon, and did not have to break up any crowds.

In Massachusetts, the University of Washington model projects more than 8,000 residents will die of COVID-19 through Aug. 4, with the peak of the outbreak occurring April 18. The state will need over 13,000 hospital beds and about 3,000 ICU beds at the height.

While Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has divulged specific information about his state’s internal modeling on the future course of the pandemic — he said Sunday he expects it to peak there on April 20 — Raimondo has not yet divulged the data she is seeing from R.I. Department of Health epidemiologists.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Steph Machado, Eli Sherman and Brittany Schaefer contributed to this report.

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