A new statistical model from Imperial College London has claimed to show that coronavirus continues to spread 'uncontrolled' in 24 U.S. states, and predicts the U.S. death toll will triple in the next two months.
The study published on Thursday, which has not been peer reviewed, uses mobility data and case information to estimate the reproduction rate of the virus, or how many other people are infected by the average case.
A reproduction rate, or R0, of less than 1 indicates that the virus is in decline and will eventually die out. A rate higher than 1 means each case will infect more than one other person on average, and is considered 'uncontrolled'.
It is the latest model from the highly influential Imperial College, which has come under harsh criticism for shoddy code and questionable methods after issuing a string of dire predictions, including one that 2.2 million Americans would die in the epidemic.
Its most prominent scientist, Professor Neil Ferguson who co-authored the new study, also drew outrage when he admitted that he flouted the very lockdown rules he'd lobbied the UK to imposed while having secret trysts with his married mistress.
'Professor Lockdown' Neil Ferguson is co-author of a new Imperial College London Study. He was forced to resign a government advisory after breaking lockdown rules to have an affair
The chart above shows the Imperial estimates of viral reproduction rate for each state, with those under 1 in green and those above 1 in magenta
A list of states shows the Imperial estimates for current rate of transmission (triangle) and initial rate of transmission (circle)
The new study uses cell phone location data and case information to estimate the reproduction rate in each state.
With restrictions now easing and mobility increasing with the approach of Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer, the researchers developed an estimate of viral spread as of May 17.
'We predict that increased mobility following relaxation of social distancing will lead to resurgence of transmission, keeping all else constant,' the authors write.
In California and Florida, the death rate could spike to roughly 1,000 a day by July without efforts to mitigate the spread, according to the report.
The authors say that their model does not account for things like the widespread wearing of masks or contact tracing efforts.
However, the authors predict that in two months, the American death toll in the epidemic will have more than tripled to exceed 288,000. To date, 96,000 people have died in the U.S.
It comes after Imperial College epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who co-authored the report, was described as 'totally unreliable' by other experts.
The coding that produced the team's original apocalyptic death figures was impossible to read, and therefore cast doubts on its strength, The Telegraph reported. It is also some 13 years old, it said.
When other scientists have tried to replicate the findings using the same model, they have repeatedly failed to do.
Ferguson's model is understood to have single-handedly triggered a dramatic change in the British government's handling of the outbreak, and the decision to move away from herd immunity to a lockdown.
But critics have today described the coding used by