Model's best-case scenario predicts 6,000 COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota

As Minnesota state officials adapt to respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic in real-time, scientific models projecting the impact on the state are changing as well.

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm says this is partly due to newer data since the stay-at-home order and other proactive measures went into place. Malcolm says the state's second model predicts a lower death toll in Minnesota with the best-case scenario of 6,000 deaths.

"We’re not predicting a certain number of deaths will happen or won’t happen," said Malcolm. "With these scenarios, it’s directional; it’s helping us understand which levers have the biggest impact."

However, there are variations, as the IHME model out of Washington is predicting about 456 deaths in Minnesota with a peak in early April. Malcolm says her team will start looking at those other models to understand the differences.

Malcolm and Governor Tim Walz also confirmed they believe the R0 is 4, which means on average an infected person will pass on the virus to four others. This marks a big jump as the R0 had previously been predicted between 2.2 to 2.5. Malcolm says the change comes from national data.

"It might have been understated for lots of reasons and as we have had more experience globally, and as we've understood the degree of more aymptomatic transmission, that’s really what pushed up that mumber," said Malcolm.

While the projections have shifted, Malcolm says the numbers do point to the importance of social distancing.

"The model confirms, the Minnesota model and the other models the governor has talked about, it’s the levers really are building up ICU capacity and isolating the most vulnerable," she said.

As of Wednesday, there have been 1,154 confirmed cases, 39 deaths in Minnesota. Gov. Walz has extended the stay-at-home order to May 4.