A COVID-19 computer model that the president and Tennessee governor are following suggests the state will hit the peak demand for hospital resources on Wednesday, April 15 and will experience 587 deaths by Aug. 4, about 2,600 fewer than originally predicted.

The model, from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), is available at covid19.healthdata.org/projections.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee mentioned the model during a press conference Monday. President Donald Trump has mentioned the model as well.

The U.S. will experience its surge on Saturday, with 94,249 beds needed and a shortage of 15,852 beds.

In Tennessee, the model follows the amount of shutdown in the state, and was updated after Lee issued the safer at home order, which he followed with a safe at home order.

Sufficient capacity

The Tennessee April 15 peak provides these data points:

  • Total beds available: 7,812
  • All beds needed: 1,232
  • ICU beds available: 629
  • ICU beds needed: 245
  • Invasive ventilators needed: 208

So, according to the model, the state has sufficient health care capacity in terms of beds.

The model predicts Tennessee will experience a daily peak in deaths – 18 fatalities – on Saturday, April 18.

Before the update, the model was calling for 3,259 deaths in the state, a dramatic difference from 587.

Unknowns remain

During Monday’s press conference, a reporter mentioned that Tennessee’s model assumes the state will observe full social distancing through May and asked Lee if he was considering that option. Lee’s safer at home and safe at home orders, Nos. 22 and 23, run through Tuesday, April 14.

In response to the question, Lee said the state is using the IHME model to “inform” its decisions, and that the model had been dramatically updated in the past week. The IHME model and other models will continue to change, he said, and the state will continue to follow them.

Lee called the numbers “encouraging” but said he was “not in a place where we’re considering changes to the (safe at home) policy, so no, we’re not looking to extend any decisions we’ve made until we deem them appropriate.”

During a Tuesday press conference, Lee said Tennessee-based hospital operator HCA Healthcare shipped some ventilators out of state to help facilities in other areas. Tennessee is “close” to having the number of ventilators officials believe they will need for the surge, he said. Then, he said the state does have enough.

On its FAQ page, healthdata.org/covid/faqs, the model’s authors address the question of whether the nation will need social distancing until a vaccine is developed.

“Our model suggests that, with social distancing, the end of the first wave of the epidemic could occur by early June. The question of whether there will be a second wave of the epidemic will depend on what we do to avoid reintroducing COVID-19 into the population. By the end of the first wave of the epidemic, an estimated 97% of the population of the United States will still be susceptible to the disease and thus measures to avoid a second wave of the pandemic prior to vaccine availability will be necessary. Maintaining some of the social distancing measures could be supplemented or replaced by nation-wide efforts such as mass screening, contact tracing, and selective quarantine.”

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