Nurses wait for the next patient to be screened for coronavirus at a UW Medicine testing station. (UW Medicine Photo / Randy Carnell)
If gaps in health care resources aren’t filled, more than 80,000 Americans will die over the next four months due to the coronavirus pandemic, epidemiologists at the University of Washington predict.
The grim forecast — based on an analysis of statistics from the World Health Organization, as well as from national and local governments and hospitals — is laid out today in a research paper that’s being submitted to the MedRxiv preprint server but hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed.
Researchers at the UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation say their forecast takes current policies on social distancing into account. The problem is that shortages of hospital beds and medical supplies are projected to boost the death toll nevertheless.
Peak excess demand is projected to occur in the second week of April, when the researchers predict a shortage of 64,000 beds and more than 19,000 ventilators. “The date of peak excess demand by state varies from the second week of April through May,” the researchers say.
With those inputs, the computer models project a total of 81,114 deaths in the U.S. over the next four months. Most of those deaths are expected to occur during April, peaking at more than 2,300 deaths per day. That rate is projected to drop below 10 deaths per day sometime between May 31 and June 6.
There are also state-by-state projections of hospital resource usage and deaths. In Washington state, for example, the peak resource use is projected to occur on April 19, the death rate is projected to rise to a maximum of 27 per day, and total COVID-19 deaths are projected to amount to 1,429 through Aug. 4. As of Wednesday,