U.Va. coronavirus model sees Va. cases spiking in July, August
If stay-at-home order is lifted on June 10, most hospitals would exceed capacity this summer, researchers forecast.
University of Virginia data modeling predicting the spread of COVID-19 in the commonwealth shows that if social distancing continues until June 10, cases will continue at a steady rate of a few hundred cases a day on average. Absent of any protective measures, however, the state would have seen the pandemic spiral out of control by now, spawning more than 5,000 cases per day.
“It shows that our social distancing measures are working. We are slowing the spread of this virus,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said during a Monday coronavirus news briefing. “It also shows right now that Virginia hospitals have sufficient capacity to handle the surge in patients that we expect, but this model also demonstrates if we lift the stay-at-home order on social distancing too soon — if we try to rush to get our lives back to normal — the number of cases will spike higher and earlier and we can’t afford that.”
The U.Va. Biocomplexity Institute, which has also performed modeling on Zika and Ebola viral epidemics in the last decade, has developed five “what if scenarios” following the progression of COVID-19 in Virginia, said Bryan Lewis, research associate professor in the institute’s network systems science and advanced computing division, during a Monday webinar. The scenarios reflected in the modeling look at options ranging from no social distancing response to lifting restrictions at the end of April to sticking with Northam’s current stay-at-home orders, which are in place through June 10.
Worst-case scenarios, in which no intervention was put into place, show that Virginia cases would have surged to more than 5,000 per day by now, with more than 1,000 Virginians hospitalized and 200 requiring ventilators daily. Under this scenarios, cases would peak at 30,000 daily confirmed cases by early May.
If restrictions were lifted at the end of April, Virginia daily confirmed cases would peak at between 15,000 to 20,000 cases between June and July, according to the U.Va. model.
And if Virginia stays with the June 10 date for lifting the stay-at-home order, the model forecasts that cases will begin surging upward in early July and peak at around 12,500 daily confirmed cases in mid-August.
Continuing the state government’s current plan to lift restrictions on June 10, the U.Va. modeling shows that hospital bed capacity would be exceeded in July in Northern Virginia and in August in Central Virginia, Hampton Roads, Roanoke and Shenandoah. Hospital capacity would be exceeded in far Southwest Virginia in September.
“Under these current conditions, we do have sufficient medical resources for the next couple months,” Lewis said, noting that “it is dangerous to consider lifting social distancing too soon.”
Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey said during the webinar that the state government is “optimistic about our hospital capacity,” and is continuing to coordinate with hospital systems to share data and information and provide resources and equipment.
Most importantly, Carey said, the U.Va. modeling shows that “our actions now will affect our outcomes. … We are in it for the long haul and we need Virginians to keep working with us on this.” The modeling demonstrates that the state needs “to be responsible about when we ease these restrictions … in a way not to trigger a second or third surge.”