COVID-19 News

LANL model suggests new COVID-19 cases in NM have peaked

A forecast released by Los Alamos National Laboratory suggests New Mexico has already hit its peak in new coronavirus cases – or is about to.

The statistical model estimates a 57% chance that New Mexico is past its peak in the number of new virus cases confirmed each day. And if the summit hasn’t arrived yet, the peak is most likely to come later this month or in May – sooner more likely than later. The peak is the point at which the state reaches the middle of the first wave of the outbreak.

Carrie Manore, a scientist and mathematician at LANL, said the forecast covers the next six weeks only. It's based on data reported so far, she said, not an attempt to factor in potential changes to people's behavior or other new information that might emerge.

"It doesn't preclude there being another peak in the future," Manore said. "It just means that under the current trajectory, it looks like the growth rate is declining."

The LANL forecast is part of the modeling New Mexico health officials have been using to prepare for the virus. State officials, nonetheless, said earlier in the week that they were preparing for a peak in mid-May.

The crest in cases is something of a moving target. New Mexicans’ willingness to stay home and engage in social distancing, state officials say, has repeatedly pushed back the projected peak and made it less dramatic.

Peak aside, the LANL forecast warns that many more New Mexicans may die in the pandemic over the next six weeks.

The forecast's "middle-case" scenario, issued Thursday, is that 223 in New Mexico will have died by June 3. But there's plenty of uncertainty that far out.

The LANL forecast estimated a 5% chance that just 95 people will have died by early June, something akin to a "best-case" scenario. Conversely there's also a 5% chance of more than 1,218 dead, according to the forecast.

On the whole, it's a more pessimistic forecast than a University of Washington model that's been cited by the White House. The Washington projection, which includes some assumptions about the continuation of social distancing strategies, estimates 109 deaths in New Mexico through June 3, with a range of 58 to 302. COVID-19 has already contributed to the deaths of 78 New Mexicans, eclipsing the low-end range of the Washington projection.

Read more: https://www.abqjournal.com/1447135