University of Massachusetts Amherst
During early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, forecasts provided actionable information about disease transmission to public health decision-makers. Between February and May 2020, experts in infectious disease modeling made weekly predictions about the impact of the pandemic in the U.S. We aggregated these predictions into consensus predictions. In March and April 2020, experts predicted that the number of COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S. by the end of 2020 would be in the range of 150,000 to 250,000, with scenarios of near 1m deaths considered plausible. The wide range of possible future outcomes underscored the uncertainty surrounding the outbreak's trajectory. Experts' predictions of measurable short-term outcomes had varying levels of accuracy over the surveys but showed appropriate levels of uncertainty when aggregated. An expert consensus model can provide important insight early on in an emerging global catastrophe.