GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The peak of the COVID-19 pandemic is about 10 days away for Michigan, according to projections published Thursday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
The organization says even if the state and nation continue to use “strong social distancing” and other protective measures until the end of May, demand for hospital services will exceed capacity. In Michigan, the IHME expects Michigan to have slightly less than half of the 20,717 hospital beds it will need for COVID-19 patients when the pandemic peaks. The outlook for intensive care units is even grimmer, with 742 ICU beds available for an anticipated 3,306 ICU patients with COVID-19.
“All they can do is take the data that’s available,” said Dr. Michael Jakubowski, chief medical officer at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. “And that is the trouble is that the data is very suspect and very limited.”
The nation is on track for a shortage of 49,292 hospital beds at the height of the pandemic, with an intensive care unit bed shortage of 14,601 beds, according to the IHME. That’s if all states institute social distancing and other prevention measures by April 2. If not, IHME warns the numbers will increase.
“That’s an issue,” he said. “And so we’re actively working on how we would take care of patients that are sick, but not sick enough to require the all-in kind of intensive care unit.”
“No state, no metro area will be spared. And the sooner that we react and the sooner the states and the metro areas react and ensure that they put in full mitigation at the same time understanding exactly what their hospitals need, then we’ll be able to move forward together and protect the most Americans,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Sunday on NBC’s Meet The Press, referring to IHME’s forecast.
To help meet demand, the IHME is recommending hospitals do what many in Michigan have already started: canceling elective procedures, setting up additional beds, adding temporary facilities and ramping up production of ventilators, masks and other personal protection equipment. The organization says mobile military resources are also an option.
Birx says the coronavirus pandemic will move in waves, peaking in each metro area at different times.
“What we’re trying to say to everyone is when this virus comes to your metro area, please stay in your metro area where your care can be provided because it’s spreading virus more quickly around the United States,” Birx said, referring to the spread of COVID-19 from New York to Long Island and southern Florida as people left the city amid alerts.
The IHME expects the pandemic to peak in Michigan on April 9 and 10 and nationally on April 14. The IHME predicts Michigan will need 1,785 ventilators, representing about 10.5% of what the nation needs. President Donald Trump has tapped General Motors and others to start building more ventilators to try to meet that need.
Based on current death rates, the IHME is forecasting the COVID-19 daily death toll in the U.S. to spike at 234 in Michigan on April 9 and 10, with a total of 4,061 Michiganders losing their lives to COVID-19 during the pandemic’s first wave. Michigan is expected to finally record no COVID-19 deaths for the day on May 7.
In the first 3-5 days of infection, people start to have an immunologic response and their bodies begin to resist.
“In the first week, people appear to be getting immune to this,” he said. “So, that’s the good part is that most people that get this get better. They are immune. They cannot any long transmit the virus.”
And locally, West Michigan’s far from becoming a hotspot like Detroit.
“Right now, we are in good shape in Kent County,” Jakubowski said. “We have plenty of hospital beds, plenty of ICU beds, plenty of ventilators.”
The doctor says it will be at least another two weeks before we can measure how much of an influence our social distancing is having on the curve.
Nationwide, IHME is predicting 2,341 will die at the height of the pandemic on April 14, with the daily death toll finally dropping below 100 on June 12. By Aug. 4, an estimated 81,114 people in the U.S. will have died from COVID-19, if the IHME’s predictions hold true.
The group says more action will be needed to avoid a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
“By end the of the first wave of the epidemic, an estimated 97% of the population of the United States will still be susceptible to the disease, so avoiding reintroduction of COVID-19 through mass screening, contact tracing, and quarantine will be essential to avoid a second wave,” the organization states on its website.
The IHME says its forecast model is designed to address the planning needs of hospitals and local governments, with data coming from local and national governments, hospital networks and other sources including the World Health Organization and American Hospital Association.