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The projected curve and range of projections, from the IHME, for Florida's COVID-19 outbreak suggests the worst could be expected around May 3.

Coronavirus

174 Floridians could die daily at coronavirus peak in May, research suggests

Florida could fill more than 10,000 hospital beds with COVID-19 patients by April 17.

An institute’s new research suggests Florida’s COVID-19 outbreak is likely to reach its worst point much later than most of the rest of the country — not until May 3 — and is likely to be deadly for a long time.

That could lead Florida to suffer the nation’s second-highest death toll behind only New York, according to a coronavirus projection model developed at a University of Washington-based research institute.

By May 3, perhaps 174 Floridians could be dying every day from COVID-19, according to the modeling done by the The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluationan independent population health research center at the University of Washington.

By the end of summer, 6,766 Floridians could have died from COVID-19, according to the institute’s model. Only New York is projected to have more coronavirus-related deaths.

On the other hand, Florida’s slower buildup of cases could prevent the Sunshine State’s health care system from being totally overwhelmed, as is expected in outbreaks in many other states, notably New York. The modeling done by the Washington researchers predicts that Florida probably would not run out of hospital beds, though the state’s hospital system would run out of intensive care unit beds when the worst of the coronavirus crisis is felt here.

By the peak in early May, Florida probably would need about 17,000 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, including about 2.500 ICU beds, the institute projects. Florida should have more than 20,000 hospital beds available by then, but probably only 1,700 ICU beds, the institute projects.

By July 1, the crisis of the “first wave” of coronavirus epidemic is likely to have subsided. The institute does not project beyond that, but notes that a second wave crisis is possible.

New York already is feeling the crunch over overwhelmed hospitals and public health systems but is by far in the worst position, according to the institute. That state is not expected to hit the worst point in its crisis until April 10, according to the model.

By that time, 798 New Yorkers could be dying each day. When it is all through, 15,546 New Yorkers could be dead from COVID-19, the institute projects.

Nationally the epidemic is projected to peak April 15, largely driven by New York, but also by dozens of other states expected to be at their worst points in mid- to late-April. The national peak is expected around the time that Florida’s crisis would begin to escalate, and 18 days before Florida’s crisis is expected to be at its worst.

On that national peak day, according to the institute’s modeling, 2,271 Americans could be dying every day from the virus.

When the first wave of the epidemic has subsided, 82,141 Americans could have died from it, the institute projects.

That projected death toll actually is lower than projections now being discussed by President Donald Trump and his administration. On Sunday Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said they were hoping for an epidemic that would leave no more than “100,000 to 200,000” Americans dead, and perhaps fewer.

The IHME contends its model “is informed by the shape that other COVID-19 outbreaks are taking, in terms of deaths, around the world and across the US.” The projections also are based on the assumption that all states will implement full, state-wide, stay-at-home strategies. Florida is among those that have not yet done so.

The institute says it developed the model and projections to help hospitals and public health officials plan for and implement strategies to prepare for the peak demands for hospitals and health care systems.

“These are urgently needed given that peak volumes are estimated to be only three weeks away,” IHME Director Dr. Christopher J.L. Murray states in a description of the project. “The estimated excess demand on hospital systems is predicated on the enactment of social distancing measures in all states that have not done so already within the next week and maintenance of these measures throughout the epidemic, emphasizing the importance of implementing, enforcing, and maintaining these measures to mitigate hospital system overload and prevent deaths.”

While plotting a most-likely line of projections for Florida, the United States, and all other states, the models also shade in the ranges that can be projected.

Those ranges remain pretty broad ranges, at least in distant weeks, lending both hope that things might not be as bad as the main-line projections, but also concern that they could be much worse.

By the anticipated May 3 peak, Florida’s need for COVID-19 hospital beds could be as low as 3,200, but as high as 45,000. The need for ICU beds could be as low as 360, but as high as 7,000.

Florida’s death rate might be as low as 33 deaths per day, but it could be as high as 460 deaths per day on May 3.

The IHME model also projects an unusually long duration, compared with most other states, for Florida’s coronavirus crisis, with hospitalizations and deaths remaining at high rates for more than a month, starting in mid-April.

The projections show Florida could start to fill more than 10,000 hospital beds with COVID-19 patients by April 17, and not see that hospital census fall below 10,000 again until May 20. Currently, there are about 650 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds statewide, according to the Florida Department of Health.

At least 100 COVID-19 patients could die in Florida every day starting around April 18, and Florida’s toll might not drop below 100 deaths a day until May 21, according to the institute’s model. To date, only 63 people have died from COVID-19 in Florida.

While Florida’s projected death toll could be devastating, the good news in the institute’s model is the notion that Florida’s hospital system might not be overwhelmed, as other states face. While Florida could run out of ICU beds, as could almost all states in the projections, Florida’s hospital system appears to have enough capacity to at least take in all the COVID-19 patients who will need hospitalization.

The institute’s projections show that New York, where temporary hospitals already are under construction in parks, convention centers and elsewhere, could come up short of needs by 58,000 hospital beds and by more than 10,000 ICU beds by its worst point.

New York is not alone facing that difficult prospect. States as diverse as Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, and Colorado also are projected to be thousands of hospital beds and hundreds if not thousands of ICU beds short of meeting their projected COVID-19 patients’ needs.

Here are the estimated COVID-19 pandemic peak dates and death tolls that the institute is projecting for a handful of other states:

— New York, April 10, 15,546 total deaths.

— California, April 25, 4,306 total deaths.

— Texas, May 2, 4,150 total deaths.

— Michigan, April 11, 2,862 total deaths.

— Georgia, April 23, 2,777 total deaths.

— Illinois, April 16, 2,360 total deaths.

— New Jersey, April 10, 2,096 total deaths.

— Louisiana, April 11, 1,897 total deaths.

— Alabama, April 20, 1,732 total deaths.

– Washington, April 24, 1,670 total deaths.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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