Health experts predict COVID-19 cases will peak in late April in South Carolina

Updated: Apr. 8, 2020 at 7:25 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - A model used by White House and South Carolina health officials predicts COVID-19 deaths will peak in the U.S. this Sunday.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) with the University of Washington predicted health service utilization and COVID-19 deaths by area.

The model predicts South Carolina deaths will peak April 25 with 14 reported deaths. The peak date is one of the latest in the country.

IHME’s predictions use data from World Health Organization websites and local and national governments on hospitalization and deaths. The model also factors in mitigations efforts like social distancing measures.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced a ‘Home or Work’ order on Monday, later than other neighboring states who IHME predicts will reach their peak sooner.

The model predicts the first wave of COVID-19 will end around the beginning of June.

According to the current predictions, 470 South Carolinians will die from COVID-19 by early August.

IHME updates the model as it gets more information. This week, South Carolina’s expected death count decreased from around 1,000 to 470, according to The State.

The death estimates are higher at other neighboring states, including Georgia (2,630), Florida (4,357) and Alabama (634).

More than 60,000 people are expected to die across the U.S. by August.

“As we noted previously, the trajectory of the pandemic will change – and dramatically for the worse – if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions. Our projections are strengthened by the new downturns in more regions. This is evidence that social distancing is crucial. Our forecasts assume that social distancing remains in place until the end of May,” IHME stated in a press release.

Dr. Deborah Briz, the White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, mentioned this model during the March 31 press briefing.

“It is this model that we are looking at now that provides us the most detail of the time course that is possible but this model assumes full mitigation,” Brix said. “As the president said, it is very much focused on the next two weeks and the stark reality of what this virus will do as it moves through communities.”

The model also predicts hospital needs including beds and ventilators.

When the U.S. nears its peak, the model predicts the country will be short more than 15,000 hospital beds and need around 16,000 ventilators.

South Carolina is not expected to have any bed shortage but it will need 123 ventilators, according to IHME.

The situation is expected to be a bit more challenging in other neighboring states, including Georgia that is estimated to need hundreds of beds and more than 1,300 ventilators are expected to be needed in Florida.

IHME has already made some major changes to its predictions earlier this week. The current predictions are based on assumptions that states will continue practicing social distancing rules.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has published the model on its website and is continuing to stress the need for social distancing.

“Our ability to combat the spread of the disease will depend on the actions that each of us takes. This is a historic and unprecedented event and how we respond to individuals, a community and a state will be remembered for generations to come and we ask for your continued support for following the guidance of public health professionals so we can continue to fight on your behalf,” said Dr. Linda Bell with SCDHEC during a press conference on Monday.

This is just one of many models and is likely to change again as more information is added.

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