The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington School of Medicine has released new COVID-19 model projections for how many hospital beds and ventilators will be needed, as well as the number of US deaths that can be expected. Their latest prediction? Fewer Americans will need hospital beds, but the death toll is still significant — and it will hit a peak very soon.
Latest COVID-19 Model Projections
Washington State was where the first US case of COVID-19 was reported. Through the monitoring of data, the IHME has watched the course of the coronavirus around the globe and what has impacted the pandemic. According to a CNN article this morning, “…as of Monday, seven locations in Spain and Italy appear to have reached their apexes as well, providing a flood of new data for the model to analyze.
Those regions seem to have reached their peaks more quickly in the wake of social distancing measures, according to the researchers. That means that some states — such as Florida, Virginia, Louisiana and West Virginia — are now expected to hit their peaks earlier than previously expected, potentially giving them less time to prepare.”
Currently, no medications or vaccines have been approved for the treatment of COVID-19. What is effective?
“Social isolation is working to reduce the caseload,” Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the IHME, told Anderson Cooper on March 31. Murray, whose models are often mentioned at the White House Coronavirus Task Force news briefings, also said that as a result of some states delaying Stay-at-Home orders “the epidemic will be larger and last longer.”
The qualifier from Murray in that same conversation was that social isolation be kept in place through the end of May.”
Projected Number of Hospital Beds & Ventilators
The IHME’s model forecasts are updated every night with new projections posted by 6 am each morning. One of IHME’s goals is to help hospitals plan for the surge with a projected peak of the pandemic.
“We expect a peak sooner rather than later,” Murray told KOMO News. Their projected peak? April 15.
This morning’s projections for the US:
- 140,823 — Hospital beds needed
(36,654 bed shortage)
- 29,210 — ICU beds needed
(16,323 bed shortage)
- 24,828 — Total number of invasive ventilators needed
Deaths Per Day Projection
The day projected as the peak for US deaths is April 16, with 3,130 deaths predicted for that day alone. Looking out at August, the model is anticipating 81,766 deaths, which is a decrease from the 100,000 deaths predicted by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
As CNN pointed out of the data, “That’s about 12,000 fewer deaths — and 121,000 fewer hospital beds — than the model estimated on Thursday.”
“The early returns suggest that social distancing has already been working,” Murray told KOMO. “Our needs estimates are down because we have more clinical practice data.”
Why the decrease? The institution of social distancing.
What could cause those numbers to increase? On March 31, Murray was a guest on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, where he explained, “…every day you have unchecked transmission in the community, you`re going to get a percentage increase, 10 percent, 15 percent depending on the state. And so, every day you wait, you can multiply those numbers out. So an extra week really adds quite a lot to how many extra people eventually are going to die, how many extra people are going to have severe disease, and the load on the whole health system.”
What the Future Holds
Will we need to maintain social distancing until there is a vaccine?
“Our model suggests that, with social distancing, the end of the first wave of the epidemic could occur by early June,” the IHME site states. “The question of whether there will be a second wave of the epidemic will depend on what we do to avoid reintroducing COVID-19 into the population. By the end of the first wave of the epidemic, an estimated 97% of the population of the United States will still be susceptible to the disease and thus measures to avoid a second wave of the pandemic prior to vaccine availability will be necessary. Maintaining some of the social distancing measures could be supplemented or replaced by nation-wide efforts such as mass screening, contact tracing, and selective quarantine.”
The continued message: social distancing is our friend.