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COVID-19 cases could double by end of January, WashU finds

WashU said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases are likely to increase to 20 million by the end of January 2021

ST. LOUIS — The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States could nearly double by Inauguration Day, according to a modeling forecast by researchers at WashU.

WashU said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is likely to increase to 20 million by the end of January 2021, according to a forecasting model. Inauguration Day is on Jan. 20, 2021.

The model accurately forecasted the rate of COVID-19 growth over the summer, according to WashU. It was developed by Olin Business School’s Meng Liu, Raphael Thomadsen and Song Yao and published on Monday in the journal Scientific Reports.

“One of the key reasons for the increased accuracy of this model over other COVID-19 forecasts is that this model accounts for the fact that people live in interconnected social networks rather than interacting mostly with random groups of strangers,” said Thomadsen, professor of marketing. “This allows the model to forecast that growth will not continue at exponential rates for long periods of time, as classic COVID-19 forecasts predict.”

Thomadsen also said even small increases in social distancing can have a large effect on the number of cases in the next two and a half months.

“We could effectively squash out the COVID growth within a few weeks if we went back to the levels of social distancing we experienced in April,” he added.

Researchers said the upcoming holiday season will bring a great deal of uncertainty to the outlook of the pandemic as people travel more at the end of the year. 

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