Predictive model backs down on Indiana death expectations

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — When the coronavirus patient surge hits Indiana next week, it’ll be tragic and costly, but not as bad as a national predictive model expected.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation of the University of Washington predicted as recently as Monday that the COVID-19 virus patient surge would top out at Indiana hospitals Friday, April 17th, taking 97 lives on its worst day and totaling almost 1,700 statewide fatalities by early June.

But the latest IHME model, drawn from statistics provided by the Indiana State Department of Health, has sliced that dire prediction in half.

Now the peak is predicted to hit April 14th with, at most, 45 patient deaths two days later and the last of 857 Hoosier coronavirus victims expected to die May 4th.

“The models are going to change from day-to-day as we get new and better data,” said Dr. Shaun Grannis, Vice President for Data and Analytics at the Regenstrief Institute. “We are seeing more optimistic numbers but that doesn’t mean we should let our guard down. I think we still need to prepare for a surge.”

The model predicts that at its peak, the coronavirus will command the utilization of 394 ICU beds and 334 ventilators for Indiana patients, well below the state’s maximum resource capacity, which Dr. Grannis said is good news for non-COVID patients who will also need intensive care during the surge.

“What is not included in these models is all of the collateral damage of the result of the potential massive peak which we’re not seeing. The potential massive peak would have meant people were having strokes, heart attacks, other serious issues unrelated to coronavirus, they would have been impacted as well by something like this.”

Statistics released Wednesday morning by ISDH showed that an additional 30 coronavirus deaths were reported in the previous 24 hours, raising the state’s fatality total to 203, and that Marion County reported the most fatalities ever in one day with ten deaths, raising Indianapolis’ count to 58 lives lost, the highest tally in the state.

While the 439 positive test results reported Wednesday morning was down 127 cases from the day before, the state also reported it conducted 2105 tests on Tuesday, a drop off of the 2,573 tests conducted the day before.

During a briefing with Governor Eric Holcomb this afternoon, Dr. Kristina Box, State Health Commissioner, announced she was directing all nursing homes, residential community settings and jails and state prisons to report any positive or suspected COVID-19 cases or deaths in their facilities to county and state health officials within 24 hours.

She reported that there have been 31 deaths at 12 nursing home facilities across the state and there have been 191 positive results from tests given to 600 persons, residents and staff, at the 200 nursing and residential care facilities ISDH staff have inspected since the start of the pandemic.

Dr. Box also said that coronavirus victims who die at home would be accounted for in county coroner statistics reported to the state and that any deaths suspected to be related to the virus would be confirmed by post mortem examinations.

“I do think that we will see some increase in the backfill of the death report,’ said Dr. Grannis.  “Somebody may pass away today and we may not know about that until next week. It doesn’t filter through the system from the health system or the coroner or the funeral home to the appropriate organization so there’s often a lag in death reporting so we generally see that information get filled in gradually over time.”

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