Revised COVID-19 model says Indiana already hit peak for hospitalizations

Indiana has already reached its peak for hospitalizations from COVID-19, according to a widely followed statistical model, which also has sharply cut the number of projected Hoosier deaths.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now says Indiana reached “peak resource use” last Wednesday, which it defined as number of hospital beds, intensive care unit beds and ventilators needed to handle the outbreak. It had earlier said Indiana would not reach its peak until this Friday.

The model also now says Indiana will see a total of 606 deaths from COVID-19 by early August, down nearly two-thirds from an original projection of 1,681 deaths.

The Indiana State Department of Health on Monday reported that the death toll across the state had risen to 350, up from 343 the previous day.

The institute, part of the University of Washington in Seattle, published the changes on Friday on its website. It did not state any reasons behind the changes, except to say that it makes frequent changes based on daily data. It also noted that in order to avoid “substantial fluctuations” in daily death counts, it calculates its updates through a formula that includes the average of the two previous published updates.

The updated model says Indiana will need 267 ICU beds, down from the original projection of 865 ICU beds. The state health department says Indiana hospitals have a total of 2,960 ICU beds.

Information released by the state on Monday showed that 25% of the total number of ICU beds were being used by COVID-19 patients, and that another 31% were in use by other patients. That left 44% of ICU beds open.

In addition, there are 2,872 ventilators in the state, only 16% of which currently are in use by COVID-19 patients. Another 73% are available.

The model publishes projections for each state, as well as the entire U.S. and numerous other countries.  Hospitals and research institutes across Indiana have been studying the IHME model, along with numerous other models, to try to prepare for the surge and peak of the outbreak.

Among the model’s host of assumptions is that Indiana (and all other states) will continue social distancing through the end of May.

So far, Gov. Eric Holcomb has been issuing “stay at home” orders only in two-week increments, and the current one is set to expire April 20.

But Indiana aren’t as optimistic as the IHME model. Holcomb and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said Monday they expect the surge won’t peak here for at least another week or two.

In fact, they believe the surge will peak later, not earlier, than original projections.

“Our earlier modeling indicated that (the peak) could come as early as this week,” Box said. “As our social distancing measures and requirements have taken effect, it has really made a change in our models. We are now expecting that surge potentially at the end of April,  probably for Marion County first, based on their numbers, and then on other parts of the state in the first couple weeks of May.”

“I really do believe we haven’t seen the peak of that surge yet,” she said.

She said her department sits down every week with data engineers and public health professionals to study numerous models and try to reach the best conclusions, based on hospitalizations, ventilator usage and reported cases and deaths.

“We’re still in the woods, but the good news is we see the clearing ahead,” Holcomb said.

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