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November 3, 2021

What is the Future of COVID-19?

Predicting the future of COVID-19 is difficult because it is still relatively new. Despite some fundamental uncertainty, many organizations and researchers have been attempting to project what the weeks and months ahead might look like. And they believe COVID-19 will remain a part of our lives.

There are many COVID-19 modeling projections available today. One great resource is the nowcasting website covidestim, which uses an in-house statistical model that combines evidence on COVID-19 transmission, natural history, and reported cases and deaths for nearly every state and county in the US. This consortium believes that there is significant under reporting which mimics the CDC multiplier of 4.2, meaning for every positive test there are 4.2 unreported positive tests. Their model also demonstrates the extent of regional variation across the country quite well.

According to projections from the Institute for Healthcare Metrics Evaluation (IHME), South Carolina COVID cases show a minor uptick from December through February 2022.  If universal mask precautions were implemented in South Carolina, cases would significantly decrease. IHME projects that a worst-case scenario for the December through February timeframe would show a similar wave to the most recent one we had in August-September. IHME states that hospital resource use will likely be similar to what we are seeing at the present time.  Staffing will still be a concern.

CDC looks at several different modeling projections a few weeks out. You can see there is significant variation between models, but most of them project cases will continue to decrease over the near term.

At the Medical University of South Carolina, researchers speculate that there is going to be an increase in cases, but only time will tell how much the increase will be. Researchers will be able to accurately predict future peaks before they hit South Carolina by watching the Rt estimates (effective reproduction number), along with watching other places and countries ahead of us, like the United Kingdom during the most recent delta surge. You can check out their updates here. The MUSC COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project is updated daily Monday through Friday for four metropolitan areas of the state: Charleston, Florence, Midlands, and Lancaster.

The range and variety of factors that these different models consider illustrate how difficult it is to forecast the future of COVID-19. The SCHA Data Team monitors a variety of different models to stay abreast of what experts are currently thinking.  Many models have been fairly accurate in the short-term, and we continue to put out information to hospitals as we gather it. We expect an uptick in COVID-19 cases between December and February, but we do not expect a surge as heavy as we saw in August and September. It is wise to maintain the ability to quickly ramp up COVID-related services and remain in a state of readiness.

Please reach out to Aunyika Moonan, PhD at with any questions or to share any information.