East Alabama Medical Center released a new prediction model for COVID-19 on Friday.
EAMC's chief of staff Michael Roberts said he used the Penn Medicine's COVID-19 Hospital Impact Model for Epidemics tool "to see how social distancing plays a role in the length of the virus in our hospital and community." The model will be updated every week, according to Roberts.
Roberts said in a press release that "just because we reach peak activity does not mean we are out of the woods."
"There will still be many sick patients in the hospital who will take time to recover. There is risk of a second wave of infections when people return to their usual patterns of movement and interaction," Roberts said. "The timing of lifting a “stay at home” order, and the process by which that is done, is a decision that will require coordination between healthcare and civic leaders."
The newest model shows April 9 as the peak date because it assumes 100% of people have been and will continue practicing social distancing.
"If that were the case, the current date (as this is being written) would be considered as the peak date of disease activity," Roberts said. "This would be the worst it will be and it would be a downward trend until the virus reaches more manageable levels in the community."
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
In last week's prediction model, the peak date for 75% social distancing was June 15, and this week it's April 10. This is because as time passes, EAMC is able to input more local data and not rely on assumptions.
"As we move further from the date of our first documented cases in the community, we can see the effects of social distancing measures that have already been in place," Roberts said. "In the end, however, these are predictions and are not set in stone. The dates will change week-to-week based on our local activity and updates to the prediction tool."
The predictions should become more accurate every week, according to Roberts.
Roberts said the peak dates for 100% and 75% social distancing are just one day apart because if East Alabama has "truly achieved 100% social distancing then, based on the timing of the arrival of COVID-19 in our community, we may have already reached our peak."
"At 75% social distancing, we could be very close to our peak," Roberts said. "Maybe not April 10, but perhaps pretty close."
EAMC reports that 50%, 25% and 0% social distancing are completely unsustainable and will overwhelm the hospital's healthcare system.
The hospital has 314 acute care beds; some are specifically for childbirth services and psychiatry. At 50% social distancing, EAMC said it would have 577 patients.
"That number alone is proof that we would not be able to care for that many people at once," Roberts said. "Even with 290 patients in the ICU and 268 of them on life support, our community could not handle this volume because we simply don’t have the critical care beds, the critical care staff or the number of ventilators needed to care for that many patients."
Roberts said that the community's effort to social distance is making a difference, but "it is not time to take our foot off the gas pedal as it’s very possible to have a second wave of cases and then have to start the whole process over again."
"We greatly appreciate our community for taking this public health issue seriously," Roberts said. "We would also like to thank our area leaders and first responders who have helped encourage citizens to stay at home and not gather."
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman