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This CDC report describes projected long-term trajectories of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in the United Stated based on several scenarios of varying vaccination coverage, vaccine effectiveness, and adherence to nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPI) such as social distancing and masking. Although several scenarios modeled by the authors predict significant decreases in COVID-19 cases by July 2021, a key theme of the report is that vaccination-related gains could be undermined within 2 to 3 months by even moderate reductions in the use of NPI.
This report provides helpful information about possible patterns in COVID-19 transmission under different scenarios. The authors frame their projections as useful for state and hospital planning purposes in addition to serving to help guide public health efforts. This report was published contemporaneously with the CDC's updated mask policy.
After a period of rapidly declining U.S. COVID-19 incidence during January-March 2021, increases occurred in several jurisdictions (1,2) despite the rapid rollout of a large-scale vaccination program. This increase coincided with the spread of more transmissible variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, including B.1.1.7 (1,3) and relaxation of COVID-19 prevention strategies such as those for businesses, large-scale gatherings, and educational activities. To provide long-term projections of potential trends in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub teams used a multiple-model approach comprising six models to assess the potential course of COVID-19 in the United States across four scenarios with different vaccination coverage rates and effectiveness estimates and strength and implementation of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) (public health policies, such as physical distancing and masking) over a 6-month period (April-September 2021) using data available through March 27, 2021 (4). Among the four scenarios, an accelerated decline in NPI adherence (which encapsulates NPI mandates and population behavior) was shown to undermine vaccination-related gains over the subsequent 2-3 months and, in combination with increased transmissibility of new variants, could lead to surges in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. A sharp decline in cases was projected by July 2021, with a faster decline in the high-vaccination scenarios. High vaccination rates and compliance with public health prevention measures are essential to control the COVID-19 pandemic and to prevent surges in hospitalizations and deaths in the coming months.
Modeling of Future COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths, by Vaccination Rates and Nonpharmaceutical Intervention Scenarios — United States, April–September 2021
MMWR Morb. Mortal. Wkly. Rep. 2021 May 14;70(19)719-724, RK Borchering, C Viboud, E Howerton, CP Smith, S Truelove, MC Runge, NG Reich, L Contamin, J Levander, J Salerno, W van Panhuis, M Kinsey, K Tallaksen, RF Obrecht, L Asher, C Costello, M Kelbaugh, S Wilson, L Shin, ME Gallagher, LC Mullany, K Rainwater-Lovett, JC Lemaitre, J Dent, KH Grantz, J Kaminsky, SA Lauer, EC Lee, HR Meredith, J Perez-Saez, LT Keegan, D Karlen, M Chinazzi, JT Davis, K Mu, X Xiong, A Pastore Y Piontti, A Vespignani, A Srivastava, P Porebski, S Venkatramanan, A Adiga, B Lewis, B Klahn, J Outten, J Schlitt, P Corbett, PA Telionis, L Wang, AS Peddireddy, B Hurt, J Chen, A Vullikanti, M Marathe, JM Healy, RB Slayton, M Biggerstaff, MA Johansson, K Shea, J Lessler