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Minnesota COVID-19 Modeling

When a new disease appears, policy-makers, businesses, health care providers, and public health officials look for real-time information to help make decisions to reduce the impact of the disease. Modeling is a way to use what we know about a disease now to help us understand what could happen in the future and how our actions may affect that. What we learn from models is just one factor to consider in making decisions, like Minnesota's executive orders.

After designing and building our model, we are sharing details about our modeling to better inform the public of what information contributes to decision-making, and to explain why guidance like social distancing is critical to protect the health of Minnesotans.

What the Minnesota model predicts

The Minnesota model estimates, with some uncertainty, the number of daily COVID-19 cases, how many people are in the ICU, and how many people die from COVID-19 in Minnesota. The model predicts approximately when the most people will get COVID-19 (the peak of the epidemic), how many people that will be, and when more people will need ICU care than the number of ICU beds that are available.

The information from our model released on May 13 suggests that:

  • More COVID-19 testing, and learning more about how to care for and treat patients with COVID-19, can potentially affect the pandemic.
  • While mitigation efforts have not slowed the spread of COVID-19 as much as the model initially assumed, these efforts can still buy time to build up hospitals and health care systems, get more testing done, and better understand how to treat COVID-19 patients.
  • To really “flatten the curve” – to spread out the number of cases over a longer period of time – we would need social distancing to be in place for an extended period of time.

How we created our model

An interdisciplinary team at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and the Minnesota Department of Health developed the Minnesota model.

The model uses data from countries and U.S. states where community spread of COVID-19 started earlier. Using the available evidence on the virus, combined with Minnesota-specific data, the model aims to understand how the epidemic will play out in Minnesota. The model accounts for our state’s demographics and underlying health conditions, as well as information about people dying from COVID-19 in Minnesota.

Why our model is important

Our model helps public health and government officials “try out” different social distancing measures to predict how they may affect the timing and number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state, and how soon our health care systems would be overloaded. This helps officials make decisions about how to best prepare our health care system and keep Minnesotans healthy.

What comes next

We will continue to refine and expand our model to better guide discussions and decision-making to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota or otherwise respond to reduce its impact. It is common practice to adjust models when new information becomes available, and we will continue to feed in new data about COVID-19 in Minnesota, in the U.S., and across the globe to put us in the best position to predict how the situation in our state will evolve.

More Information 

Infographic: Minnesota COVID-19 Model (PDF)

Video briefings: 


Frequently asked questions: 

Technical documentation: 


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