Florida COVID-19 deaths expected to peak in early May

COVID-19 curve could worsen if social distancing isn't followed, researcher warns

A University of Washington researcher cited by the White House expects COVID-19 deaths in Florida to peak at around 136 deaths per day in the first week of May.

Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, expects Florida will have enough regular hospital beds to meet a peak demand of 13,232 beds, but will fall short by 297 beds for intensive care units. He expects the state will need 1,992 ICU beds at the peak, but will have 1,695 available. (See chart at end of story.)

Projection of total deaths in Florida

The institute projects that the total number of deaths would continue to climb in Florida throughout May.

“Our estimated trajectory of COVID-19 deaths assumes continued and uninterrupted vigilance by the general public, hospital and health workers, and government agencies,” Murray said in a press release. “The trajectory of the pandemic will change—and dramatically for the worse—if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions. We encourage everyone to adhere to those precautions to help save lives.”

The Miami Herald reports that Ali Mokdad, a professor at the institute, told Florida officials they should shut down everything. Until now, though, Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken a measured approach with strong restrictions in South Florida, but less so in the rest of the state.

On Monday, the governor initially said he wanted a stay at home policy in South Florida until mid-May, but then said he misspoke and meant mid-April.

IHME’s analysis, based on observed death rates, estimates that over the next four months in the US, approximately 81,000 people will die from the virus. Estimates range between 38,000 and 162,000 US deaths.

President Donald Trump’s decision to extend social distancing guidelines until April 30 came after officials reviewed 12 different statistical models, CNN reported. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator mentioned the IHME projections as confirming the other projections.

Adding to the scenario is a warning from Kinsa, which makes smart thermometers, that there was a spike in fever readings in Florida about a week ago.

“The level of illness we’re seeing in Florida is [two times] what we would have expected,” Kinsa CEO Inder Singh told BuisinessInsider.com on March 25. “That’s very high, and it appears that it continues to grow. So, presumably, that’s COVID 19. Presumably.”

In a March 31 interview with CNBC, Singh said the correlation between the fever spikes and COVID-19 outbreaks has been high nationally. The lag time between the fever spikes and COVID-19 case numbers being identified appears to be weeks since testing is not widespread.

He is particularly concerned about Florida because of its elderly population and amount of underserved residents.

The company’s healthweather.us map shows high levels of atypical illness in South Florida compared with most locations in Florida and the United States in general. However, clicking on the trend button shows the amount of illness decreasing in South Florida.

Aggressive social distancing can help flatten the curve and keep people alive, Singh says.

 

 

Projection for Florida hospital usage during the pandemic

 

Kevin Gale
kgale@sfbwmag.com
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