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Dr. Anthony Fauci has “no problem” with criticisms of the coronavirus models but is pushing back on the idea that government decisions were made based on those projections.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spoke with Fox News host Martha MacCallum about the coronavirus death tolls and the effect of initial modeling on the spread of the global pandemic.
(Source: Fox News)
“I’d like to start with the question of these models which are now getting a lot of pushback in terms of their reliability when the numbers have swung 33 percent in just a couple of days,” the Fox News host asked on “The Story with Martha MacCallum” Friday.
Fauci, a member of President Trump’s coronavirus task force, thought there was a “certain validity” to the criticisms, explaining that he remains skeptical about models because they’re “only as good as the assumptions you put into the model.”
“Those assumptions that start off when you don’t have very much data at all or the data that you have is uncertain, that you put these assumptions in and you get these wide ranges of calculations of what might happen,” he said.
“But then as you start to accumulate data, data that’s real data likely being influenced heavily by the mitigation programs that you put in the physical separations, when real data comes in, then data in my mind always trumps any model,” Fauci added.
The model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington projected as of Friday that 61,545 Americans will die of COVID-19 by August 4, depending on the continuation of “full social distancing” measures through the end of May. The projections were that more than 93,000 Americans would die in the same time frame in an IHME model last week, however.
“I have no problem with people who are critical of modeling because modeling is inherently an imperfect science. So I don’t really have any quibbling with that,” he said. “You just got to make sure you collect real data, you rely more on the data than the model.”
“I think one of the problems is that those models were what were used to shut down the United States economy,” MacCallum noted.
“The fear that those numbers, when we looked at 100,000 to 240,000 people, and that was – I should point out – including mitigation and social distancing. That was with that factored in. So that number has dropped by 33 percent. I guess you know, what kind of model is so far-off that it leads us to policymaking decisions that now are having such dire consequences?” she pressed.
But Fauci countered that the “strong mitigation programs” were not just a result of early modeling.
“I think it’s important to point out that it isn’t the model or the result of the model that really led to the decision to have such strong mitigation programs such as physical separation,” he said, pointing to the high death tolls in China and Italy.
“You don’t even have to look at any model. Just take a look at what happened in China. Take a look at what happened in northern Italy, how the hospitals were completely overrun and the draconian methods that had to be taken in China to turn down their outbreak,” Fauci told MacCallum.
“So if I never saw a result of a model, that alone would clearly indicate that something rather significant needed to be done to prevent the spread,” he added. “So again, getting back to models, and I never argue with anybody that has a problem with a model. I inherently have problems with models.”
During Friday’s White House press briefing on the coronavirus, the president indicated that he thought the U.S. death toll would be “substantially less” than the 100,000 which was being projected last week.
“You know, I should point out that obviously everyone is very glad that these numbers are so much further south than what was anticipated. That is a good story. That’s good news,” MacCallum said before going back to raise the issue again later.
“The policy wasn’t made purely on the model,” Fauci responded. “The policy was made on our understanding of what the virus was doing and could do.”
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