Young Bay Area man projects COVID-19 deaths better than experts

Youyang Gu, a 27-year-old data scientist, has attracted attention for his impressively accurate COVID-19 projections.

Video Transcript

- For close to a year, statistics have helped to track the magnitude of the pandemic. They have also helped to project stress on hospital capacity and the mounting death toll. This website, created by a 27-year-old data scientist from the South Bay, started generating attention because of its accuracy compared to others.

YOUYANG GU: A lot of these models that were there during the early stages of the pandemic were not clear about the assumptions and the limitations.

- Based in New York, Youyang Gu found himself in lockdown while visiting his parents in Santa Clara. His background was in analyzing finance, not pandemics. But what he created in just two days became his full time passion. He crunched the latest numbers, generated daily, not only for the US and California, but also for 70 countries worldwide.

YOUYANG GU: I've also been wrong many times, but I think it's about learning from your mistakes and being able to adjust to data and new information as they come in.

- At times, his trajectory of COVID deaths turned out to be far more accurate than projections from universities and health experts. Using real time data, he said, was the key factor, along with stressing accuracy and transparency about underlying assumptions of his model.

YOUYANG GU: Once the website got a lot of attention, I decided to devote my full attention to that for the next few months. And I guess it's been almost a year now.

- How long he'll continue depends on the pandemic. Compensation comes from donations on his website. Gu and his parents came to the US from Shanghai when he was seven. He tweeted recently--

YOUYANG GU: I can't think of many other countries where the work of an untrained 27-year-old immigrant can garner the attention and respect of researchers and public alike.