KYW Medical Report: Are COVID-19 predictions accurate?

Doctor performing a COVID-19 test
Doctor performing a COVID-19 test Photo credit David Benito/Getty Images
By KYW Newsradio 1060

KYW Newsradio’s Medical Reports are sponsored by Independence Blue Cross.

By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — COVID-19 is very predictable in how it is spread, and we are learning a great deal about how it attacks. But our predictions for future spread have been anything but accurate over the past months.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Johns Hopkins University have worked together to study the accuracy of forecasts, first of influenza, and subsequently of the coronavirus for the past several years.

According to the researchers, forecasts beyond four weeks are either so inaccurate or have such a wide range of possible outcomes that they are useless for personal decision-making or policymaking — just as you wouldn’t use a prediction of rain six weeks out to determine plans for a vacation.

According to the scientists, neither ordinary citizens nor lawmakers should be looking at pandemic forecasts past four weeks into the future as they make crucial decisions.