RALeigh – The University of Washington, one of many creating computer models to map out the spread and severity of CODI-19 infections, has revised it’s projections for North Carolina. The researchers now point to model projections indicating a peak by next week as far as the viral impact in North Carolina. More encouraging still, the models also suggest that our hospital capacity will not be overwhelmed; we will have enough inpatient and ICU beds to handle any surges in hospitalizations.
From the News & Observer:
“[…] Researchers at the school’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now think about 500 people will die from COVID-19 in North Carolina, down from the more than 2,400 they predicted just a week and a half ago.
The researchers also now think North Carolina has enough hospital beds, including intensive care unit beds, to handle the surge of coronavirus patients. They initially thought the state would run short of both types of beds as the outbreak peaked this month. […]
The updated Washington projections reflect government policies to keep people apart and slow the spread of the virus. Researchers say they now have better information from Italy and Spain about how quickly death rates slowed after social distancing was enforced, and that has brought down the projected death rates for several states, including North Carolina.
The initial predictions were made before Gov. Roy Cooper issued a statewide stay-at-home order that bans gatherings of more than 10 and directs people to only go out to visit essential businesses, to exercise outdoors or to help a family member. The order remains in effect until April 29.
The researchers also say they have more timely and better data that have allowed them to refine their models. They say they have better information, for example, about how long someone with coronavirus is expected to remain in the hospital.
The Washington researchers also now think the worst of the outbreak will come early next week rather than late in the month. They say they think the maximum use of hospital beds will come on Monday, April 13, and that deaths will peak two days later, at 30 a day, before steadily declining to zero in early May. […]”
It’s not just North Carolina, either, as nationwide predictions have brought the peak closer and total deaths lower. The headline of the N&O piece alludes to the effectiveness of Social Distancing as why this will be the case, and it most certainly could be.
While this is certainly a factor, it being THE factor in improving predictions is likely the only conclusion that will be made as the worst becomes a little less scary and original predictions turn out to be too high. This will be the only dominant counterfactual: The social distancing mandates worked, if we had not enforced them, thousands more would have died.
The alternative — that the models were overly pessimistic in the first place and never quite reliable because the data fueling them wasn’t either — will not be given much credence. Why? Because the incredible damage done by the government shutdown policies used to enforce social distancing will require justification in the public sphere.
Think of the incredible course of events that has transpired over these last several weeks, between the viral fear, to shutdowns, to unprecedented economic collapse and job loss. Our leaders cannot afford to let the cure appear more deadly than the disease.
Think of the ease in which the public went along with such dramatic curtailing of freedoms, for the collective good as defined by public health experts, the media, and elected officials. Our leaders certainly want that general, unquestioning obedience to be reinforced, rather than questioned.
All cynicism aside, the new predictions of less death and less hospitalizations is GOOD NEWS for North Carolina and the entire country. Read more about the news models here.