JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- According to the forecast from the from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington- the health impact Covid-19 has on Tennessee could be less than originally projected.
The IHME projections have been talked about by public health and elected officials a few times throughout the pandemic.
“There are reports of encouraging news and there are indications that the spread of the virus may in fact be slowing- not only in our state but in other places around the country,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee during his Tuesday Press Conference.
The nation and Tennessee’s projected peak date is April 15th.
The model says the state will need 1,232 hospital beds, down from the worst projection of a need of 15,618. The state has 7,812 beds available.
There is also no bed shortage projected for ICU beds. The new numbers say the state will need 245 beds, down from a previous projection of 2,428. The state has 629 ICU beds.
There is another drastic drop is in the need for ventilators. The recent model says Tennessee will only need 208. Originally- we were expected to need 1,943.
The number of Tennesseans that lose their life each day to the pandemic is also projected lower. Now- the model shows 25 deaths per day at the peak compared to the original forecast of 165 on April 20th.
This means the total deaths for the state will also be lower. IHME said 3,422 Tennesseans would die as a result of Covid-19 by August 4th. Now, that number is much lower at 587.
So- what changed?
Gov. Bill Lee issued a statewide stay at home order, schools and non-essential services closed and travel became limited.
“Data changes rapidly and even though the data is changing rapidly- we cannot change in our diligence, in our vigilance, in our efforts to continue to do the things that have actually caused the decrease in the speed of the spread of this virus,” said Lee.
Dr. Wykoff says the influx of information has led to better predictions.
“Early in any epidemic, you see a very quick upturn in cases and if you project from that, you don’t know what is going to impact that- whether we are going to socially isolate, are people going to stay home, are people not going to mix and mingle. Early on, it’s much harder to project the outcome of an epidemic than it is later on,” said Dr. Wykoff.
But what’s the catch?
There are areas of uncertainty with the models. Doctor Randy Wykoff is the dean of the College of Public Health at ETSU- he says this projection is only based on the knowns and current state of Covid-19.
“In any type of projection- there is always some uncertainty, and we don’t a lot about the virus. We don’t know how many people have already been infected or asymptomatic and might be out there spreading it,” said. Dr. Wykoff. “There’s also questions about the seasonality… so there’s some unanswered questions but using all the best information they had- this new estimate comes out with about 80 thousand deaths.”
The forecast is based on enactment and maintaining of social distancing measures.
“They’re helpful for planning purposes but we also have to understand that they’re based on the best assumptions that we have- what we know about the virus. But, they’re also based on a very strict adherence to social isolation, that folks will stay isolated,” said Dr. Wykoff.
While this model is hopeful- the nation could still be in some sort of social distance measure through the end of May.
“It’s hard to say when we’re going to see the end of this. Looking at other countries-those countries that have done a lot of social isolation have seen their numbers come down pretty significantly,” Dr. Wykoff said. “So, I think we can be optimistic. Hopefully, May or June, we’ll start to know much better when we can really let up.”
Dr. Wykoff also suggests that people be open minded to new data and take heed to what it says and suggests.
“Whether it’s this model or any other model- we have to actually respond to what’s happening on the ground and as we start to see more cases in rural areas like ours, we may have to continue this social isolation a little bit longer,” said. Wykoff.
The projections paint a grim picture for the nation as whole saying about 80,000 Americans will die as a result of the virus.